Grateful for finally getting to thank Mr. Auger
"I wonder if we can find Mr. Auger," one of our self-described Women Who Worry asked the other three during one of our frequent Skype calls.
We four, in widespread cities and two countries, had decided to put together a "Mr. Auger's Class" party-before-the-big-party of our upcoming 50th high school reunion in the large Western city none of us had lived in for years.
Mr. Auger, then a young handsome enthusiastic teacher, was the glue that held together our middle school class in the 1950s. Those of us who found ourselves placed in his class discovered that we were part of a new concept, what would now be called a "Talented and Gifted" class, which would stay together with the same home room teacher for all three years of middle school.
During those years Mr. Auger pushed us hard, requiring essays in answer to test questions instead of the multiple choice enjoyed by our friends in other classes. We memorized long poems and were encouraged to take part in school activities.
His enthusiasm encouraged us to try harder, to strive for the best. Little did we know that he was preparing us for a life of leadership and achievement that many in our class would find later as adults. We wondered now if there was still time to say "thank you" after all these years.
We four childhood friends, who had not been together for more than 50 years, decided to find as many of our original 35 Mr. Auger classmates as we could and have the party at our hotel to see what had become of us.
We contacted the school, friends who knew of others, and gradually, to our excitement, the list of classmates grew as we found them scattered across the country.
We four Skyped regularly, making plans and worrying. Would people come? What if we had nothing to talk about? What should our program be?
We enlisted a well-liked classmate, now an attorney in California, to be our emcee. Then, to our amazement, one of us four announced on our weekly call that she had not only found Mr. Auger in Minnesota, but that at age 85 he and his wife would drive all the way to our party. We were thrilled, and our list of attendees grew as word spread.
I brought with me decorations from the '50s, including records, Elvis posters and most important, wax black mustaches and red Marilyn Monroe lips that we thought were hilarious at middle school age.
We gathered with excitement the day of our party, as classmates whom we had not seen for over half a century began to arrive.
A number of lawyers and doctors, civic leaders, teachers, a truck driver, an executive of a university, women who had forged careers even though we were only expected to be wives and mothers ... as they came in the door we realized that we had, indeed, been like family in Mr. Auger's class, and our great fondness for each other was still there all these years later as we greeted each one.
At last, Mr. Auger (few of us could bring ourselves to call him Jack as he asked) arrived, still as smiling and charming as he had been so long ago.
He and his wife sat stunned as our classmates told how his leadership, his insistence on excellence and his enthusiastic encouragement had led many of us to adult achievements few of us would have had the confidence to pursue had he not been there to guide us when we were young.
We told story after story of how as our teacher, and later guidance counselor at the high school and college level, he transferred his love of his career to his students. We told him how lucky we were to have had him in our lives.
After several hours, when it was time to go to the big high school reunion party, we all sat for a photo wearing our wax lips and mustaches, once more together to celebrate Mr. Auger. Our Mr. Auger. How grateful we were for this chance to say thank you.
Peggy Keonjian is a member of the Jottings group of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.