I grew up about five miles from town, on a lightly populated rural road. Very few kids to play with unless I got someone to cart me into town. Then I went to kindergarten, and being with all the other children was wonderful.
It was a private class in a woman’s home because kindergarten programs were not common in schools back then. The classroom had a big wall of windows. The bathroom had a real claw-foot tub, the deepest I have ever seen, with a tiny stepstool beside it for getting inside. Her backyard was a place rich with flowers, birds, bugs and sunshine.
My teacher, Mrs. Scott, was one of the first non-family members that I truly, unreservedly, loved and trusted with all my heart. She collected cookie jars and had many of them stashed around her classroom, and it was fun to see where she would pull out nice surprises next. When I made a mistake and made homemade Valentine’s that year instead of buying cute commercially made ones like everyone else did, she was the first to praise me and take away the sting of being different.
She gave me gold stars, handed me paste and magazines and safety scissors, and taught me to enjoy knowing the answer when the teacher called on me.
I was happily surprised that summer when I was taking swimming lessons at the city pool to see her as one of the teachers. I remember that she wore a one-piece black swimming suit and a swim cap that made her look glamorous in a way her kindergarten teacher clothes did not. But it was still her, my Mrs. Scott.
The lessons went on with several instructors helping different kids, and I lingered on dry ground. I was one of the extremely fearful kids who stood gulping and shaking on the side of the pool’s deep end long after my friends had already jumped to a teacher’s waiting arms in the deep, deep water.
She must have been watching me while I tried to turn invisible and shrink away, because she swam right in front of me and said, “Do you trust me?”
She held out her arms and said, “Then jump.”
I wavered on the edge for just a second, closed my eyes, and trusted her with my life. When you’re six, that’s what it feels like. I took a leap into the unknown, feeling like I really might die.
There was just a second while the air rushed around me, and then she was holding me as we bobbed down just a little.
“Not so bad, is it?” She patted me and told me she was proud, and we went on with the lessons.
It’s one of the sweetest moments of my childhood, remembering that trust was asked for, and vulnerability was respected. Trust re-affirmed.
* * *
That blind leap of faith — more of a leap of hope than actual faith, really — was what it was like for me when I started sleeping with my husband again after his affair. He will never, ever, know the courage that took, to be that vulnerable.