Today (August 2013) I shared a little story across about a dozen tweets on Twitter, about my late primary school teacher, and why she was so special. I mentioned that she had once given me a violin, but that that was a story for another day. In fact, I had written about it once before, in April 2012, but in another place. What I wrote before is reproduced below, slightly amended for this new medium.
A really beautiful thing happened today [8 April 2012], which I wanted to share.
When I was really wee, my primary school teacher was lovely. She got on well with my mum and when I started violin lessons she gave me a violin. It was full size, so too big at the time, but she said she had high hopes I would carry on playing, which I did.
My family moved to another city, my mum stayed in touch with her, I carried on playing the violin. From time to time my mum would show me one of her letters which were always beautiful and interesting and always asked what I was up to.
Years later, when I first had 13yo, I wrote to her because I thought she’d be a little bit interested. And she wrote back, so we started writing to each other from time to time. When 13yo started playing violin, I told her, and then when he stopped we shared a rueful laugh about it and I let her know that having a full size violin with her surname on the case had been part of what kept me going.
When she wrote to my mum she mentioned how pleased she was that I still had “G’s Violin” and mum wrote back that she would love to know more about G one day.
My former teacher is now in her 90s, has terminal cancer, and is cared for in a palliative care home. She’s still lively and busy. We write to each other from time to time; she and my mum write to each other often.
This weekend we were at itsgrandmaswork’s and mum gave me a letter which was headed “An Introduction to G”.
This lovely two page letter described the short but special life of my teacher’s youngest son, who died of leukaemia at the age of 14.
What an extraordinary and generous thing for her to do – giving me that violin. She was a grandma by the time we knew her, and spoke only of her two living children and her grandchildren. I had no idea (and neither did my mother) that there had been another child. She said nothing of the instrument’s history when she passed on the violin.
I am so pleased and relieved that I respected that gift; that I kept the violin, played it and looked after it.
I think mum asking about G gave her a chance to share something that she held close to herself for a long time.
She said in her letter that she becomes “closer to him each day, though I can never catch up”. And that she will look through her old photos to find one of G playing the violin.
At the end of her lovely letter to my mum she wrote “I know he would have been glad to know that […] had shared his instrument. He would have loved her too.”
I am so pleased that she felt able to tell us before the end. And also glad that she didn’t say anything about its history when she gave me the violin. It would have felt like too big a burden for little me. Instead she simply trusted me. I felt the power of that trust, after all those years, when I read her letter.