Memories of a remarkable influence

Every child has someone in their life that means a whole lot to them. Parents, obviously (and hopefully) provide nurturing support to children as the progress through life.

Friends, too, play a huge role in a child’s life — both developmentally and socially.

But there’s one person in my life whose support throughout the years meant the world. We’ll call her Mrs. S.

Mrs. S was the babysitter I had from when I was in preschool through middle school. She was a retired teacher from England who lived in the town where I grew up.

As my parents worked, they couldn’t be there to get me off the bus from school. Mrs. S would be there every day to pick me up from the bus stop at the Food Lion parking lot.

Not to get too personal, but I was a child that had some pretty big anxiety issues. School sometimes could be overwhelming. I needed calm and structure when I wasn’t in school. Mrs. S provided that for me. Every day when she picked me up, she had classical music playing in her car.

I remember she was the one that picked me up from school the day of Sept. 11, 2001. As I wrote before, I was in second grade and far too young to understand what happened.

In her calming, soothing English accent, she explained to me what happened in a way that a child would understand. I was still scared, but hearing the news come from her made me think everything was going to be OK.

For nearly 10 years, she would take me to her house, where her and her husband, Mr. S, would make me a cup of tea or hot chocolate and would prepare a snack. Sometimes it was cookies, sometimes it was homemade bread, butter and jam and sometimes it was popcorn. I relished in teatime, and I try my best to continue that tradition to this day by preparing either a cup of tea or coffee around 3 p.m.

When I was younger, she would take me to the park by her house. I would play for what felt like hours on that playground. She always encouraged me to let my imagination run wild, and I remember on the days when I couldn’t go to the park I would play with the assortment of toys she had in her house. She had a building block set of which I was particularly fond.

She would make me do my homework and was always there to offer guidance and support whenever I had a question. I attribute much of my academic “success” to her guidance throughout my early years.

She would always play me classical music when I did my homework, a practice that I continue whenever I need to buckle down and focus when I was at work.

After I did my homework, she would give me a copy of the Washington Post. I would read that, learning about current events and the happenings in the world around me. When I was younger, I especially loved Kid’s Post — an insert in the Washington Post made especially for kids. If I remember correctly, it came out every Wednesday. Reading the Post at her house every day made me want to become a journalist. If it wasn’t for her, I honestly have no clue what I’d be doing today.

Over the years I saw Mrs. S less and less often. I had a busy life in high school and I worked during the summer when I was in high school and college. But I always tried to make some time to see her, even if it was just for a couple of minutes.

Mrs. S died about a year and a half ago. It was just after I moved here (but I hadn’t started at the Prevailer yet). I had dinner with my family that’s here that night to remember her. I tried to go to her funeral, but because of constraints with my then-job, I wasn’t able to.

I remember the last time I saw her. My mom was visiting family back on the East Coast and I was still living there, and me, my mom, another family and Mr. and Mrs. S went out to dinner at a restaurant in the town where I grew up. I was working for the local paper there, and we had a hurricane brush by our coast. I was soaked from covering it, and I regret that I came to dinner looking like I stood out in a hurricane all day.

Mrs. S was so happy to see me. I was equally as happy to see her. And then she made a remark about how it looked like I stood out in the rain all day. We laughed. It was a tender moment that I will always carry with me the rest of my life.

As I lived far from family when I was a kid, she and her husband were substitute grandparents. Their nurturing and support through the most delicate developmental ages shaped me into the person I am today.

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