Her name was Donna Smolak. It’s been more than 45 years so I guess it’s alright to say her name. She was my home economics teacher when I was 12, and she taught me a valuable lesson.
She didn’t believe me.
I’ve thought about her over the years, at the time of course I did not know to be offended although I did know that I had been taught a very powerful lesson in simplicity. Let’s face it, it was a Catholic school in the 60s. You didn’t question much.
My mother was a wonderful seamstress. She was particular and she had high standards. She thought it was appropriate to teach me to sew when I was about eight. When I was scheduled in Miss Smolak’s class, I had already been sitting at a sewing machine and cutting fabric for 4 years. One of my biggest accomplishments was that I could hem quite beautifully. The stitches were small, consistent and almost invisible. They did not pucker, dance lazily across the seam or break.
After completing our very own cross-stitched pastel coloured apron, we progressed to making a dress. Mine was blue, it was short-sleeved and had little multi-coloured flowers. It was so beautiful. The hand stitched hem passed my mother’s approval and I confidently took it in for marking.
Except there was one problem, Miss Smolak didn’t believe that I had hemmed it myself. Our small class all stood around the wooden table that we used. We each had a turn to speak about our dress and then it was my turn. My blue flowered dress was just so darn cute! It lay on the table as if it could take wings and dance away in a breeze.
Miss Smolak turned my dress to the other side and looked at the hem. Her eyes bore into me and she said “you didn’t do this”. It was not a question. She picked at the knot that I had been taught by my mother to hide inside the seam and she pulled. Half the hem thread was left in her hands, the other girls gasped. Then she said “do it again, now”. I was a shy little girl, but I knew that she was wrong. I picked up the perfectly matching thread from the grocery bag I had proudly carried to school that held my dress that morning. And I hemmed. Again.
I don’t remember what happened after that. I don’t remember if Miss Smolak had the courtesy to apologize. I was too young, teachers in those days did no wrong and could do anything.
What I learned that day and have been witness to many times since is this. Some people will not believe you, ever. They will not recognize or acknowledge your skills, your determination, your courage, your talents, your honesty, or your heart. You will never know why and you don't need to. Stay away from them and be your best self. You don't need to say a word. Simplicity is your strength.
If you know this Miss Smolak or you have your own, have faith. The world is full of good people, be there for each other, rely on each other, count on each other and look for each other in this busy world. Spread the good and don’t worry.