From the eighth grade on, it was always honors. You see, in the seventh grade, armed with gumption (and devoid of tact), I marched up to my Language Arts teacher and asked her to recommend me for honors English for the upcoming year. Her class, I informed her as politely as possible, wasn't challenging me. I can still remember the look that crossed her face. Amusement, more than anything. In her next breath she informed me that she'd been teaching my class at an honors level all year.
I felt kind of small. Kind of small and kind of stupid. I imagined what the rubber bottom of my shoe tasted like. But, from then on, it was honors. Officially.
In high school, that meant a summer reading list. One of those summers brought Maya Angelou into my life by way of her book, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now. I kept a large percentage of those summer reading requirements. As I skim over the pages of Dr. Angelou's book, I see my own handwriting, big and loopy. If the book had been previously owned, I wouldn't believe that the letters belonged to me. They look nothing like the way I write. A not so subtle reminder that these past 18 years have brought about some changes.
I wish I could blame the writing on someone else. That would mean that I could put the thoughts behind the penmanship on someone else as well. The ideas are remedial, at best. Pathetic, unsubstantiated drivel, at worst. But in the end, despite my banal criticism challenging the doctor to explain herself, and my sophomoric (freshmonic?), white-European commentary on racism notwithstanding, I fell in love with Maya Angelou.
Among so many other things, over the course of my own life, she taught me a little bit about why I wouldn't trade my own journey for anything. As life has happened, I have, on occasion, mumbled her very title as a sort of prayer-mantra. When I married my husband after almost marrying someone else, WOULDN'T TAKE NOTHING FOR MY JOURNEY NOW. When my baby was born after infertility and so many tears and a pregnancy filled with twice weekly ultrasounds and concerns of placental insufficiency, WOULDN'T TAKE NOTHING FOR MY JOURNEY NOW. When the judge signed on the dotted line and brought a fourteen month custody battle to a close, I held my youngest son close and WOULDN'T TAKE NOTHING FOR MY JOURNEY NOW.
When, by God's infinite grace and wisdom, we end up exactly where we're supposed to be. WOULDN'T TAKE NOTHING FOR MY JOURNEY NOW.
On this day, I learned the sad news that the world has lost Miss Maya and I've thought of shedding a tear or two. Or perhaps a million. Because the world does not so easily replace such a phenomenal woman. Instead, I held her tattered New York Times Bestseller in my hands and I flipped through the pages.
"When I think of death, and of late the idea has come with alarming frequency, I seem at peace with the idea that a day will dawn when I will no longer be among those living in this valley of strange humors. I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to accept the death of anyone else. I find it impossible to let a friend or relative go into that country of no return. Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in its wake...
Also, when I sense myself filling with rage at the absence of a beloved, I try as soon as possible to remember that my concerns and questions, my efforts and answers should be focused on what I did or can learn from my departed love. What legacy was left which can help me in the art of living a good life?
If I employ the legacies of my late beloveds, I am certain death will take itself and me as well." -Maya Angelou Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now
Death has taken her this day. But oh what a legacy was left. What literary contributions. What love. What life.She is no longer among those living in this valley of strange humors, but through her work and the lives, like mine, that she has impacted, she will not be forgotten.