I think I'd feel worse about the whole thing -- feel unprofessional or some such -- if it weren't for the fact that teachers are just people too, and I don't really think it hurts for students to know that. If I relied more on an authority-based model for my teaching, I might feel differently, might worry that I'd damaged the relationship model that facilitated my teaching. Thankfully for me, I don't. My students pretty much know me as I am already; now they just know a bit more.
When I walked out of the building at two, the sun had finally come out, after days of grey, and it was warm and pleasant and I decided I had enough energy to manage an errand. So I went across the street to wait for a bus that would take me up to the Gap -- I wanted to pick up some socks for baby (Nilofer had said that their socks were good, and tended to actually stay on), and some nursing bras for me. I was firmly resolved that I would resist buying all the pretty little outfits that they sell there; I had plenty of clothes to dress baby in for the first year, after all the gifts at the baby showers. I'd just get a few practical items for us, necessities. That was the plan.
At the bus stand were four middle-aged tourist women, trying to figure out how to get to Michigan and Illinois. After listening to them for a few minutes, I intervened, and showed them how to read the map that told them which buses would take them there. One of them asked me when I was due, and I said five weeks, and she asked if I knew what it was, and I said a girl. She told me her daughter was having her first child, a baby girl, in about three months, and we smiled at each other. As it turned out, we were going to about the same place, so we ended up getting on the same bus.
As the bus went up Michigan Ave., I pointed out a few things they might want to come back and see, like the fabulous "Cloud Gate" sculpture. Mostly I read my book. When we got to Grand Street, I nudged one and told her that they should get off here and walk a block back to Illinois. Then I stood up to get off -- at which point, the one I'd been talking to before came running up the aisle and took my hand. She asked, "Is this your first baby?" I said, "Yes." And then she pressed a twenty-dollar bill into it and said, "You've been so nice -- I want you to buy something pretty for your baby girl!"
Such a lovely moment.
I smiled, and protested, and she insisted I take it. The bus driver (a forty-something man) said that he was expecting a little girl too, and she said that his tummy didn't look nearly as adorable as mine, and we all laughed. I asked where she was from, and she said Dayton, Ohio. I admitted I hadn't been there, and she said that it was a nice place to be from. I believe it. After a week of being seriously exhausted and not a little upset by humanity and its uglinesses, it was so good to be reminded that there was such sweetness in people as well.
I ended up buying a spring coat for baby with the money, marked down from forty-four dollars to seventeen, the last one in the store. I had actually seen it a few weeks previously, and loved it, but couldn't justify spending the money on it at full price, especially since it was sized for a three-year-old. The coat is white, with little embroidered pink and yellow flowers and green leaves at the ends of the sleeves and the bottom of the coat. Utterly charming. Baby girl won't be big enough to wear it for years, but I hope that when she finally does, I remember to tell her this story:
Once upon a time, on a beautiful spring day, there was a nice lady from Dayton, Ohio who did something unnecessary and sweet for a total stranger, and made her life better...