A Young Lesson On Dr. Pepper and Toilets.

I remember my third grade teacher. Her name was Miss Agurkis. Image

I was in love with her.

As a young girl with eight years under her belt, I knew she was the most remarkable person on the planet. It was an innocent love, one that you can only have at that age. It was the kind of love you can’t really explain. It wasn’t sexual, and it wasn’t hero worship. But I knew for the nine solid months of my third grade year, she was going to be the singularly most important person in my life.

She was just out of college, and we were her first class. A product of the 1960’s, she was the first person I met that had actually purchased a Beatles album on her own. She encouraged free thought, creativity, and laughter. Prior to her, my teachers had been traditional women of the 1950’s, kind but very stern and marginally distant.

But not Miss Agurkis.

I was an awkward girl, I grew tall very quickly, and by the time I was in third grade I was already a head above all the girls, and most of the boys. I was all legs and arms, clumsy as hell, and a bit of a clown. I wasn’t in the cool kids group, and nerds weren’t an actually classification back then. I spoke before I thought, a problem that some 50 years later I still feel challenged by, and I had all the insecurities that befall young girls, and old women.

Sometimes at the end of class, Miss Agurkis would ask us if we had any questions. One day I decided to ask the one question that had been on my mind for months.

Any questions? Laura, you have your hand up.

Yes Miss Agurkis.

What’s your question?

Why do boys leave the toilet seat up?

You can imagine the laughter, subtle name calling, and my ultimate confusion and embarrassment. I remember looking in her eyes for some relief, and she did not disappoint. She did not join the laughter, but instead simply said:

I don’t know.

She was honest. I loved her.

Around Christmas I was shopping at the drug store with my mother. I was looking at all the everythings that were displayed in multitudes around the store, when I spun around and knocked over the entire display of Dr. Pepper. It crashed everywhere and my tree limbs for arms and legs moved as fast as they could away from the mess. I hid in a corner crying. I could hear my mother yelling for me. I was terrified. I had committed the ultimate crime, and my mother was going to be so upset. Making a mess, PLUS embarrassing her, it was too much handle. I hid in that corner trying to be invisible and sobbing.

Suddenly there were two feet in front of me, and there was Miss Agurkis.

It’s OK. It can be cleaned up.Then she looked over her shoulder,  I found her, she’s over here.


Suddenly my mother was there.  She asked me why I was so upset.

I don’t know.

Miss Agurkis knelt down, Laura, it’s OK. Really. Accidents happen, and she reached out her hand.

I got up, and my mother hugged me.

I learned that accidents happen.

I moved up the elementary school chain, and the next year I went on to 4th grade where I published my very first story in the local paper. It was a Halloween story about a nice witch and an evil pumpkin. My mother was proud, but Miss Agurkis stopped me in the hall to tell me how wonderful the story was, and what a fine writer I would be when I grew up.

And then she left our school district the next year to get married.

I think about her now and again.

My mother was a strong woman, and I became as much her as any daughter can become, but I think I learned one of life’s valuable lessons when I was eight years old from Miss Agukis.

Sometimes accidents happen.

And if you can face the things that devastate you with your head up you will be able to see your way out of them.

Sometimes accidents happen.

And THAT may be why men keep the toilet seat up.

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