From the moment we are born, people pass in and out of our lives: Parents, siblings, grandparents, neighbors, childhood friends, teachers, classmates, co-workers, dates, spouses, etc.
A few people make significant impressions; many are just ships passing in the night.
Last April as we were all hunkered down in the beginning of pandemic mode, I received an email from a woman (Hi Bernadette!), who said that she read my column in the newspaper each week and wondered if I remembered her. She had been a college intern in the small public relations agency where I had worked from 1985-1986. She recognized my name and photo (even wearing a pink baseball cap!), and recalled that I was fun to work with and that she had learned a lot about public relations. I was so pleased to be remembered fondly in this surprise email.
In November, I received a lovely email from a different woman (Hi Heidi!), who read my article in the winter issue of Westchester Senior Voice magazine and wanted to reach out. She said that she recognized my name and photo (a tiny headshot wearing a goofy fedora!) and wondered if I would remember her. She had been a recent college graduate hired at the first public relations agency where I had worked from 1981-1982. In the email, she said that she remembered me because I was one of the only people that was kind to her and taught her public relations writing. Wow! That was 40 years ago!
What a wonderful feeling to know that I made such a positive impression on these two women years ago. I beamed with pride for a few days. Then I thought, I can’t just accept these lovely gifts of positive memories. I need to reach out to my favorite high school teacher, Mr. Robert Goodman.
Mr. Goodman was my Hungarian teacher at Bayside High School, the only New York City public high school to offer Hungarian language as an elective. My father’s family is Hungarian, so I couldn’t wait to take this class. But most of the high school seniors just signed up for the class to have Mr. Goodman as their teacher! This joyful educator made learning Hungarian fun.
I only had one semester of Hungarian with Mr. Goodman. I had already planned to graduate early in January and go straight to college. After high school graduation, Mr. Goodman and I kept in touch through holiday cards until 1990. But I did not forget him. I have thanked Mr. Goodman in previous columns: “Thank a Teacher” in 2018 and “Graduation” in 2019. This special teacher had no idea that one of his students had written about him and kept him in high regard since the 1970s.
I resolved to find Mr. Goodman and let him know how much I valued him for setting a wonderful example as a kind and enthusiastic educator. I narrowed down my Google search and took a chance sending a two-page letter and copies of my columns inside of a holiday greeting card.
A couple of days into the New Year, I drove to the Cross River post office to pick up my mail. At the bottom of the stack was a large red envelope with R. Goodman in the corner! I literally shrieked with happiness as I opened the envelope in the post office. Mr. Goodman and I have reconnected. We’ve chatted on the telephone twice so far, for more than one hour each time, not just as teacher and student but as friends!
Kim Kovach makes fiction writing fun with classes via Zoom for adults, teens and children. www.kimkovachwrites.com