My 12th grade English teacher, Mrs. Adelaide Truesdell, was Ernest Hemingway’s first cousin. With a little Googling, I learned that she was 60 years old when she was my teacher – four years younger than I am today. I remember her as slight, gray, fey, and gentle. My 10th grade English teacher had once heaved a glass paperweight at a disagreeable student. My 11th grade English teacher was especially fond of the boys in my class. I certainly remember those two and I even remember some of what they taught me about English grammar and literature. But Mrs. Truesdell stands out for me because of a few words in the margin of an essay I wrote for her class. She wrote, “You write with charm. Write more.”
And so I have.
Here is the essay that earned Ernest’s cousin’s praise.
Woodrow Wilson High School, Section 124-4. November 4, 1965
“Autumn is my season of serenity. In Spring, I feel restless; wanderlust grips me. Winter and Summer eke out unreckoned angers. Crisp air and brightly hued leaves tumbling end-over-end fill me with a deep awareness of the grandeur of God.
I have a perfect seat for viewing the unlimited splendors of Autumn. The window of my homeroom opens onto a corner of the campus with trees, streets, cars, buildings, and people — all subject to the winds, leaves, and briskness of Fall. The streets and buildings remain stolid in the face of beauty. Never still, the trees vibrate, the branches whip about, and the leaves fall to earth.
Throughout the last weeks of onrushing Autumn, I have seen the gradual changes of the shifting seasons. The trees, once green, became a symphony of reds, oranges, and yellows.
The people change, too. They wear coats or sweaters and walk more quickly, as if they were afraid of the season and must hurry out of its reach.
The sky looks colder. Even when the sun shines, there is a darkness. A darkness that invades the being of the world.
The season of death is approaching.
In this time prefacing the inevitable slowness of winter, the world seems to want to increase its tempo. As if to make up for the time soon to be lost, all processes speed up. The living process is quicker, the aging is quicker, but the dying process is the quickest of all.”