Sunday, December 19, 2010

The 12 Memories of Christmas: (Tears of) Joy to the World!

In the Stultz family, it's a pretty well-known fact that I'm the one with all the good ideas. On our recent trip to Maui, for instance, I was the one who suggested we have Round Table Pizza after the Cats whipped up on Washington, and who said, "Let's just meet at Bubba Gump's" after our day at Haleakala? Well, here's a hint: she's got two thumbs and looks like THIS girl------->

Every now and then, though, one of the others will surprise me. Daddy suggests we share a cab in to our New York hotel to cut back on expenses. Sissy dresses the girls in a pair of outfits I'd never have thought to match up myself. Mom has one of her brainstorm inspirations. In fact, that's exactly how the 4th memory of Christmas came to be. My mom had one of her brainstorm inspirations, which are sometimes mistaken to be migraine headaches.

But first, you need some backstory. While pursuing my Masters in Theatre at the University of Kentucky, I was a Teaching Assistant. As such, I taught Introduction to Theatre to 50 students per semester, most of them athletes. Being a Wildcat fan of obsessive proportions, this thrilled me. One of those athletes was quarterback Andre Woodson, then a red-shirt freshman.

Andre was a great kid, always engaged in class, always asking lots of questions afterwards, and always calling me "Teach" when he did. This, too, thrilled me. Most thrilling of all, though, was when Andre and two of his classmates performed the ten minute play they'd written as their end of semester project. Their work made me so proud, and I don't just say that because it involved Andre taking the stage in a gold lamay wig. It was well-written, well-rehearsed, and, well, one of the highlights of the semester.

Fast forward to the start of the following fall. Andre, then a sophomore, was sitting in his car outside my favorite campus lunch spot. I went over and talked to him and asked how practices were going, and he very excitedly told me that the coaches thought he'd get some playing time soon. He was right. A few weeks later, I was at the UK / Ohio U. football game when they announced Andre would play his first snaps as a Wildcat. I started crying in the stands. Tears of joy. I was just so excited for my super sweet former student.

After a rocky sophomore season, Andre really stepped up his game as a junior and senior. In fact, he ended his career as a Wildcat by leading UK to landmark wins over Louisville, LSU (then #1), and Clemson in the team's first bowl victory in 22 years. For awhile in his senior season, he was even a part of the "H3isman" conversation.

I hadn't seen Andre since that day early in his sophomore season, but I watched his success with enormous pride and excitement. He was a great kid who'd done great things - not the least of which was wearing a gold lamay wig in my Intro to Theatre class.

Andre's senior season was my "rookie" year as a doctoral student at the University of Georgia. As soon as I got to Lexington for the week of the Tennessee game - others call this "Thanksgiving break" - Mom insisted I open a Christmas present. If you know my mother, you know this is not like her. At all. But, apparently, she was really excited about giving me this gift.

I was happy to oblige. I ripped recklessly in to the wrapped box, expecting season two of the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" or something. Boy, was I surprised to see it wasn't that at all. Instead, it was a football autographed by Andre Woodson - not only was it autographed, but he'd signed it to "Teach," which he'd always called me, and which I MUCH prefer to "Miss Stultz," "Dr. Stultz," "Professor Stultz," or anything that isn't "Kristin," which is what I tell my students to call me.

Once again came those same tears of joy that I'd cried when watching Andre play his first college game. It remains one of the top five Christmas gifts I've ever been given. The obvious question is why, and I can't really answer that. Well, maybe I can.

You know how your elementary school teachers always talk about how they love all of their students? I remember, even as a kid, thinking, "Yeah, Lady. Sure you do. And I 'love' eating a tuna salad sandwich for lunch every day." It just seemed disingenuous to me. Then I started teaching and found out it's true. There is something that I love about every single student I have - even the ones who submit raps by LL Cool J as their "original monologue" (you know who you are ...).

I want so much for them to succeed and to do great things, and I think that this football, which is still showcased in a glass display case that resides in my guest room, was indicative of Andre's success. My tears of joy in opening it, then, weren't for me. They were for him ... and for my mother, who finally had a REALLY good idea.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know whether to commend you on your obvious devotion to your students or scold you for A) being so emotional and B) displaying those emotions on such a public forum. Have I taught you nothing?!

    Okay, so I think I went with the 2nd option. Don’t cry.