a column dedicated to the folks in the pews
Written by Dale Buchanan
Gayle and I caught up with Pat coming from French class for lunch at Jack’s Urban Eats. The place was jumping with a group of high school students. I apologized for the ruckus. She responded, “Dale, I was born to be a teacher. The hubbub of these teenagers is music to my ears. I taught thirty-five years from second to twelfth grades, although third grade was probably my favorite.” With my mind settled, we were off to the races and two hours of pleasant conversation. I asked general questions and allowed her to go where her thoughts took her.
“Pat, why are you taking French lessons?” “My mother’s folks, my grandparents, came to Fresno from France. Grandpa opened a French Bakery in downtown Fresno near the present Wells Fargo Bank. He did well with the bakery, but Grandpa wanted to be a dairy rancher. He built a French style house in an L-shape in which the house and the barn were connected. Although this is common in France, it was unheard of in California and the neighbors scoffed at the idea. Grandpa so wanted to be an American that he tore down his French house and built a two story colonial style house with a white picket fence. I have always been interested in my French background and lived in France for a while as a young woman and even owned a house there for a time. So, in answer to your question, improving my French speaking seems appropriate.”
“Pat, perhaps you might speak to your childhood.” “I was born in Colton and raised in Covina—both cities in Southern California. Covina was beautiful when I was a child. Orange orchards and walnut groves dominated the landscape. I remember my dad and one of his friends speaking about the coming freeways: ‘I just don’t get it. They say there are no stop signs. How do you get on the thing?’ ‘They tell me there is something called a ramp. You get on this ramp and merge. That makes no sense to me.’”
“Pat, I think our readers would be especially interested in reading about you as a child.” “I was painfully shy.” I have known Pat for several years and I would never use the word shy to describe her. I laughed at the thought and begged her to continue. “Okay, Dale, stop laughing and I will start over. I was bashful to the max and extremely timid. I was the second tallest girl in my school and hated that the most of all.” Try as I might, I could not wipe the smile from my face. “I wore glasses and thought for the longest time that my name was Four Eyes. On top of that I had buck teeth.” I will never look at Pat the same again and I was hopelessly lost in mirth at this image she was sharing. Pat was on a roll now and described in detail the little girl fitted with braces to fix those buck teeth.
“Okay, Pat, tell me about your passions and what you are pursuing now.” “My passion is service. My goal is to make an impact on society and the lives of others. Dale, as a child I did not want to play nurse like my girl friends. I wanted to play school and be the teacher. Right now I am involved in a mentoring program with other Big Red members at Alexander Hamilton Elementary School. My heart breaks when I sit down with children who are not learning to read. I am so proud to be a part of Big Red’s participation in the Every Neighborhood Partnership to help teach first and second graders how to read.”
It is true that Pat will at the drop of a hat talk to you about the interface between psychology and spirituality, a seemingly esoteric movement called Pachamama, or the Enneagram along with many more ideas that require thinking outside the box. It is also true that this teacher and idealist is blessed, perhaps obsessed, with a sense of humor that will lighten your mood and make you eager to say “yes” to volunteering when you see her coming.
Dale Buchanan is a member of FCCF with a passion for stories and writing. In between penning his own memoirs, he is helping us get to know our members, one pew at a time.