My Foiled Escape from Latin

Your past will haunt you, they say.

Telling my mother that her sole reason for existence was to “foster my development into greatness” was obviously a swollen, teenage miscalculation. I see this now as I begrudgingly prepare for my own daughter’s emotionally overcharged pubescence. Recently, my mother announced, as my tween tyrant skirted off down the hall after being scolded for giving me one of her famous triple eye rolls, “I just wanted to live long enough to see this day.” Well, goody goody.

Of course, I didn’t reserve my Nero-esque moments during those years for Mom alone. There was the dress code nazi at my high school, too. (How dare she send me home for wearing a corset over my t-shirt! Sheesh.) And then there was that gym teacher who made us practice an aerobics routine to the Pointer Sisters’ “Jump” all semester. When she called Mom crying about how I staged a sit-down strike, my sinister, sixteen year-old soul smiled a great grin of vengeance. I was well on my way to becoming a more vegetarian version of Hannibal Lecter.

The worst example, however, was the way in which I treated poor Ms. Wyatt.

She was my Latin teacher — for nearly four years of my life. Whatever stereotype you may have about quirky Latin instructors is probably valid in Wyatt’s case, so I won’t waste much time describing what she was like. I will say this: We loved and hated each other. I could not wait to get to her class so she’d send me to the principal’s office. Daily.

Ms. Wyatt was misunderstood. I think I knew that back then, which is most likely what drew me to her and also why I was willing to go to such extreme measures to get her attention. For example, I remember taking a black marker to her podium at one point and very carefully writing “RAVISHING” divided into syllables down the front. It was as close as I could have come to writing “Fuck you, and I like you” without actually saying so. I believe the only reason she didn’t kill me was because I was useful and dependable when she needed a Dramatic Interpretation competitor for Latin competitions. This was the only event which doesn’t require the competing nerd to actually know anything about the subject. I can attest to this because after having taken all those years of Latin, I don’t remember much — largely attributed to the fact I spent most of my time in the principal’s office. However, I always took home a ribbon for the team. And for Ms. Wyatt.

And then I miraculously graduated, finding myself sans her craziness and her Latin and our love/hate.

A couple of weeks ago Isy<3 leaned over her bowl of mac ‘n’ cheese at Chili’s and revealed behind her one Ms. Wyatt, sitting alone two booths away. I immediately gathered a pen and ripped a sheet of paper from the Joe Ledbetter journal Russell gave me to carry around in my purse.

 

Latin Gangstas

Latin Gangstas

 

“Mrs. Wyatt?”

“Yes, yes.”

“It’s me…Kristan Busby? I was in your –”

“I know exactly who you are.”

Weird thing, this life, and I wanted to cry for some reason right there.

I sat down in the booth with her, leaving Russell and Isy<3 to fend for themselves. Ms. Wyatt continued, “I was thinking about you a while back. My boyfriend [her boyfriend? What? Teachers can’t…] went into the attic and found a box labeled ‘Latin’ and wanted to know what I wanted to do with it. Well, you wouldn’t believe it, but inside the box there was all of this fabric, all of these ribbons — a whole box of them — that we’d won all those years.”

“Really?”

“Yes, and I found yours.”

That’s when the waiter stopped by. Obviously familiar with the Chili’s staff, she bragged, “This is one of my old Latin students. She won the state competition in Dramatic Interp.”

She did remember.

“Oh, wow. What year was that?”

I wasn’t sure, but Ms. Wyatt answered for me, “Ooooh, I’d have to say 1989, something like that, don’t you think?”

Crap, I remembered practically none of this, but she was recalling details from two decades past with frightening clarity for someone her age. She went on, “I know you didn’t learn any of the speech you had to memorize until we got on that bus to go to State.”

“You’re right. I didn’t know a word.”

Looking back at the waiter, she added, “And she won. One of my best students.”

My whole life, I have desperately tried to prove my mother’s success in “fostering my development into greatness.” As I sat before Ms. Wyatt, I realized something which hadn’t occurred to me before: I have been great. Perhaps, my greatness hasn’t involved world domination or a Nobel Peace Prize, but I do have a ribbon with my name on it in a box Ms. Wyatt’s boyfriend pulled from her attic. It’s something.

I hugged her again before we left, and Russell took a few pictures of us with my camera. I told Ms. Wyatt she was my favorite teacher. Then, like so many years ago, I went my own way. This time, leaving her alone in the booth to enjoy her glass of white wine and the consolation of knowing I hadn’t turned out to be Hannibal Lecter after all.

Ms. Wyatt, if you find me here, for what it’s worth: We might be slightly off-kilter — you and I, but you’re still RAVISHING. Love, K

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9 thoughts on “My Foiled Escape from Latin

  1. Happened by your blog quite accidentally while on a nerd quest to translate escape into latin on the web (I have similarly vague memories of my own latin classes, and, yeah, my high school self would cower in shame to know I’d ever write that first sentence). Not sure why, but I ended up reading this entire post, and I have to tell you that I thought it was beautiful. Your mother–and Ms. Wyatt–should be very proud.

    Cheers,
    Carl.

  2. Hey, I could not help but read your article. Ms. Wyatt was my Latin teacher at Irving High. I graduated in 1996. I’d love to track her down. Can you help me.

  3. Sure, I have her email around somewhere. Let me dig around, and I’ll get back with you, Travis.

    I’m so glad one of Wyatt’s fellow students read my article. Fantastic.

  4. I stumbled onto your site. Thanks so much for posting this–especially the photo. Ms. Wyatt was my Latin teacher too (a very, very long time ago in North Carolina). I have often wondered about her. If you have her email, I would love to get in touch with her. (I will be a real test for her memory.)

  5. Ah, Carolyn, her email doesn’t seem to work properly. I don’t have a correct address. :(

    I *think* Ms. Wyatt moved to the east coast last year, possibly back to NC. I could be wrong. She still has the same name and loves catching up with her students. If you find her, send her to my blog. I don’t think she’s read this article, which also was printed here in the local newspaper. Rats! I wish she knew!

  6. Kristan, I happened across your site while looking for pictures of Morten Harket. Your writing style reminds me a lot of mine and my high-school aged daughter Kirsten. I’m going to pass the web address on to her as an example of creative writing – too many people just don’t appreciate the written word anymore as a form of expression (or comedy).

  7. I checked a couple of years ago and tracked her down and she was back in her old house in Irving. I talked with her briefly on the phone. One of my friends at work also took her Latin class (small world). Now I am back studying Latin with a private tutor (20 years later) and thinking about Mrs. Wyatt again. -Travis Brown IHS 1996

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