Life isn’t short. Not if you look at it like a timeline. Like one of those 8th grade history assignments detailing the American Revolution from shots fired at Lexington and Concord to the Treaty of Paris.
Eighth grade history teacher Janet Lambert, who passed away last week from leukemia, influenced so many people’s “timelines.” In 2007 she taught my older son U.S. history and in a lunchtime group called “The History Hounds” she kept on teaching…only the 14-year olds didn’t realize it, they just thought they were having fun. Now my son is a college sophomore history major.
In 2011, my younger son took history with Mrs.Lambert. He excelled and enjoyed her class, though his previous interest in history was tenuous at best. Probably sensing this, Mrs. Lambert encouraged him to attend City Council meetings and to participate in civic debate. No one was more amazed than I was to see him confidently address our Beverly Hills elected officials.
Mrs. Lambert married an equally influential teacher, Coach Mike Lambert. Coach and Mrs. Lambert made all the children at their elementary school “their” children. Thinking about the Lamberts today, I walked past the North Field at Hawthorne Elementary School. Through the chain link fence I saw Coach with his floppy sun hat and his USC tee shirt, directing some boys on the basketball court. “Nice shirt,” I smiled.
He walked up to the fence when he saw Molly and me. “Just wanted to let you know, we’ll be there on Saturday for the Memorial,” I said. I raised my hand and leaned on the chain link fence.
He raised his hand and placed it against mine. I felt it through the metal. “Thank you,” he said. What I felt through my hand – fear, deep sadness, cold – affected me. We stood like that for a long moment.
What made me walk on and not turn straight for home was the knowledge that Beverly Hills is a lot of things, but at its best, it’s a family. All of us, no matter what role we play, own a place on the timeline.