Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Face of an Angel... ALPHA ROSSETTI -- Gone 28 Years, Never Forgotten!


For many of you, this is the first sight you have of the woman who first believed in me as a writer. I received this photo today from her daughter, Susan , who has also been a school teacher for many years. (I'm happy to report that the apple didn't fall far from the Alpha tree.)

Of course, for those of you who grew up in Cle Elum during the same time I did (and in the decades before and for a decade or so after), you know, remember and revere Alpha Rossetti every bit as much as I do. She was an institution in our town. Her husband Mike was the mayor of Cle Elum (more than once, as I recall).  With only 1600 people in the little burg (at that time), we were scarcely more than a village. Everyone knew everyone.

Ten years after I graduated from high school I went back for a visit. Mrs. Rossetti asked me, then, to call her Alpha, but I was never able to do it. To me, she earned the august title "Mrs. Rossetti". The familiarity of Alpha just never felt right to me.  There are some teachers who inhabit their titles. She did.

Susan tells me her mom loved me.  I have a feeling she probably loved a lot of her students. But I know she loved me. I absolutely do.  She wasn't obvious about it, of course.  She wasn't even "obviously" Susan's mom in class!  She was a Teacher. Back in those days (the 1960's), Cle Elum High was "old school", scarcely past the knuckle-rapping days of yore.  Teachers were Teachers. You didn't mess around. You Respected them. And because we did, we learned a lot. Our school's scholatic rating was always among the highest in the state.

But back to the major thread of this story...

While my dad was telling me to "get my head out of the clouds" and stop being so foolish as to think I would ever make a living as a writer, Mrs. Rossetti was telling me I was an amazing writer and buying me subscriptions to THE WRITER magazine. She did this, I suspect, because one time when she told me I was a very good writer, I asked her, "Teach me how to be better!"  She told me that great writing wasn't something she could teach. (I get that, now, but back then I thought any English teacher could be a great writer if they decided to sit down and write: they knew all the rules and had stories to tell. What more did great writing require?) 

She told me, "I can't teach you how to be better. I'm not a writer. But I'm a reader--and I know good writing when I see it." 

I reckon my request preyed on her mind.  Not long after this brief exchange, she handed me a copy of THE WRITER magazine.  I have no doubt my eyes flew right out of their sockets! 

Then she said, "I've paid for a two year subscription for you."  (We were a poor farm family. We could no more have afforded a magazine subscription that only one family member would read than we could fly to the moon.) This was her way of teaching me how to be better--the only way she felt she could reliably!

I practically memorized every issue.

She also loved me enough to set me straight when my teen-age personality begin to segue from sweet to sour.  She took me aside one day after class to advise me, not unkindly, "I don't like your new personality."

OMG!  OMG! OMG!  Red Alert!  The very thought of losing Mrs. Rossetti's high regard for me catapulted my racing heart into my throat!  I quickly regained my sanity. She never spoke of it again.

There are some people who become so much a part of your heart that you know they're sitting in heaven just waiting for you to beam up. These are the same souls you're half-compelled to go AWOL from life to see again, sooner than God has scheduled your leave-taking. 

Alpha Rossetti is one of those.  I simply cannot wait to see her again. But alas, I must.  Until then, this new photo will sit to the right of my flat screen monitor, smiling at me...

She has been gone 28 years. In 28 years I'll be gone--probably sooner.  And that's okay with me. I've got great friends over yonder that I'm missing like crazy. And a Savior I'm aching to embrace.

Cowabunga.  It's going to be great!

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