I didn't know the man in front of me that morning. But I did notice that we both walked a little straighter, a little more proudly, as our daughters held our hands. We were proud but apprehensive on that important day. Our girls were beginning first grade. We were about to give them up, for a while at least, to the institution we call school. As we entered the building, he looked at me. Our eyes met just for a minute, but that was enough. Our love for our daughters, our hopes for their future, our concern for their well-being welled up in our eyes.
You, their teacher, met us at the door. You introduced yourself and showed the girls to their seats. We gave them each a good-bye kiss, and then we walked out the door. We didn't talk to each other on the way back to the parking lot and on to our respective jobs. We were too involved thinking about you.
There were so many things we wanted to tell you, Teacher. Too many things were left unsaid. So I'm writing to you. I'd like to tell you the things we didn't have time for that first morning.
I hope you noticed Beth's dress. She looked beautiful in it. Now I know you might think that's a father's prejudice, but she thinks she looks beautiful in it, and that's what's really important. Did you know we spent a full week searching the shopping malls for just the right dress for that special occasion? She wouldn't show you, but I'm sure she'd like you to know that she picked that dress because of the way it unfurled as she danced in front of the mirrors in the clothing store. The minute she tried it on, she knew she'd found her special dress. I wonder if you noticed. Just a word from you would make that dress all the more wondrous.
Her shoes tell a lot about Beth and a lot about her family. At least they're worth a minute of your time. Yes, they're blue shoes with one strap. Solid, well-made shoes, not too stylish, you know the kind. What you don't know is how we argued about getting the kind of shoes she said all the girls would be wearing. We said no to plastic shoes in purple or pink or orange.
Beth was worried that the other kids would laugh at her baby shoes. In the end she tried the solid blue ones on and, with a smile, told us she always did like strap shoes. That's the first-born, eager to please. She's like the shoes – solid and reliable. How she'd love it if you mentioned those straps.
I hope you quickly notice that Beth is shy. She'll talk her head off when she gets to know you, but you'll have to make the first move. Don't mistake her quietness for lack of intelligence. Beth can read any children's book you put in front of her. She learned reading the way it should be taught. She learned it naturally, snuggled up in her bed with her mother and me reading her stories at naptime, at bedtime and at cuddling times throughout the day. To Beth, books are synonymous with good times and loving family. Please don't change her love of reading by making the learning of it a burdensome chore. It has taken us all her life to instill in her the joy of books and learning.