She was one of my most influential teachers. I admire her so.
My Spanish teacher from high school, Mrs. Mary Allberry, passed away on Saturday at the age of 82.
She was everyone’s favorite I think. She was fun and hilarious and spunky. She had us call her Reina Maria (or Queen Mary). Her classroom was warm and inviting. Spanish was a class I always looked forward too. I can just see her half dancing up the aisles between our rows of desks…clicking the heels of her shoes and clapping her hands as we all recited, “Tengo una cita con Anita a las oche de la noche”. Yep. Everyone loved Mrs. Allberry.
That’s not why she was so influential for me though.
The truth is, high school was a difficult time for me (and for everyone). I felt like a such a poser. I shouldn’t be a cheerleader. I didn’t belong on student council. Everywhere I went I felt I didn’t quite fit in and certainly, one day, everyone would figure me out! My grades were the only thing I felt I could control. I was so type A-perfectionistic about my grades. I NEEDED to have a 4.0. I needed to be perfect. I needed to be top of the class. Needed it so badly that I cheated. I cheated…and Mrs. Allberry caught me. She found me with a tiny slip of paper in my hand containing all the answers to the weekly Spanish quiz passed down from previous classes. I remember how she looked so disappointed and asked me to come in after school.
I was terrified. I was so full of shame to have disappointed one of my very favorite teachers. And, in truth, I didn’t really need to cheat. I was good at Spanish. I would’ve aced those quizzes anyway! But at that point in my life I needed the reassurance. I’d do anything to be perfect.
I remember going in to her like it was yesterday. And I remember knowing by the look on her face I was already forgiven. She told me only one thing, “You’re better than this.” Then she made me bring her a Snickers bar.
And that was it.
I worried for a little while that she might treat me differently or she wouldn’t like me anymore. And I was so grateful that nothing changed. I was truly forgiven. She remained fun and hilarious. And I continued to love Spanish class. She even chose me to be the substitute teacher for a week when the real substitute couldn’t speak any Spanish!
She was so much more about living a good and full and beautiful life than making sure her students spoke Spanish. She was more about love than any grade on a test. I felt so special and treasured and adored. I learned volumes about integrity and trust and forgiveness. That was the last time I cheated my way to perfect grades. And, thankfully, Calculus took me down a few notches. Turns out I’m not perfect…and the world kept spinning!
I graduated and moved on and grew up, and after college, got married and finished medical school and had babies.
Just last Fall I reconnected with my dear Reina Maria on Facebook. I was a little surprised she remembered me!
She read all my blog posts and commented on each and every one! She told me I’m a good writer. She told me I’m a good mom. She told me she’s proud of me with all my babies!! She added little clapping hand emojis and smiley faces with heart eyes. My favorite of all was her comment on my Mothering Boys post “laughing and loving is the way”.
Just two weeks ago she told me about the book she wrote, “I Ain’t Done Yet”. I never knew she was a writer too! And she messaged me that she’d like to send me a copy. I sent her my address and told her I would LOVE to read her book!
Then on Saturday, February 24th, I heard she passed away.
I looked through her Facebook pictures. At that smiling, spunky happy face! I reread all the comments she left on my writing. I was sad but so inspired by this woman’s full and beautiful life. I figured she didn’t get her book mailed out to me so I ordered it from Barnes and Noble on Saturday afternoon. I couldn’t wait to read it! A celebration of my adored teacher’s life!
This afternoon I checked the mail on our way to soccer practice and found a white envelope addressed to Mrs. Mikala Albertson with a return address sticker with a Cardinal and this name…Ms. Mary Allberry.
I started crying immediately. Sobbing. Through trembling hands I tore open the paper to find her book. Her book for me. I clutched it to my chest and bawled. I’m pretty sure my kids thought I was losing it.
I couldn’t believe it. I can’t believe it. I just CANNOT believe it.
I got a letter from heaven.
I am dumbfounded. I am in awe. Once again, I feel so special and treasured and adored. It is my favorite present of all time.
What a blessing she was to me…what a blessing she was to the world.
And my dear, sweet, spunky and beautiful Reina Maria…gracias for inspiring ME and remembering ME!!!