Signature lives

By kateandcarla

January 4, 2011

Category: Uncategorized


Photo: Svet via Flickr Creative Commons

Elizabeth Bailey, my third-grade teacher, passed on Christmas Day at the age of 92.  I remember her as a tall, impeccably dressed woman with exceptionally high standards.  And I credit her with my penmanship.

At the age of eight, I wanted nothing more in the world than to write like Mrs. Bailey. Her black ink pen moved with such grace across the page, leaving even, elegant loops and perfectly crossed t’s.  I sense now that I saw in her measured script the coming together of creativity and control—a value I’ve worked to develop over the years.

But let’s get back to that Promise City elementary classroom, with its noisy radiators, steamy windows and mandatory portrait of a stoic George Washington.  These were the days of the Palmer Method

—when small children with still-developing fine-motor skills were tortured with hours of painstaking practice, repeating a single letter again and again until the specially-lined page was filled. Something tells me no one in 1958 saw a future filled with keyboards and thumb-fired text messaging.

About 40 years after those lessons, my mom gave me my report cards from grade school. And there were the ones completed and signed by Elizabeth Bailey.  What surprised me was to see how the penmanship I once had viewed as perfect was so dissimilar to my own. In the course of living my life, the model had been transformed into something distinctively mine.

The insight? Ultimately, each of us must live a signature life.

Just before the holidays, I had the chance to interview several of the retired Sisters of St. Francis at the Motherhouse in Colorado Springs. Usually, I take notes on my laptop…but that day, I’d consciously decided to slow the pace and use a pen.  One of the older Sisters—a former teacher—complimented me on my penmanship.

So I told her about Mrs. Bailey.


7 Responses to “Signature lives”

  1. When I saw that your Mrs. Bailey had passed, I expected an article about her. Got that one, didn’t I??

  2. P.S. Hoping Marilyn and Marvin read it, too. 🙂

  3. She was a toughy…so proper but with a clear sense of her own power…we had her for both third and fourth grade. Who were some of the Sewal teachers during those years?

  4. I had Bernice Morris for 1st and 2nd, Effie Sumpter for 3rd and 4th, Bernice again for 5th and Lynn Hammonds for 6th. I learned more from Mrs. Morris than any other teacher. (Carol Ann Morris’ mother) I still remember 5th grade social studies and learned and remember so much about our United States. (still have huge interest in US History and geography) Mrs. Sumpter….not so good. Lynn Hammonds……awful.

  5. Thank you so much Carla for the article about Ms. Bailey. She was truly one of my favorites and I credit you for getting me in touch with her these past few years. We shared Christmas cards and memories via the mail about all of those good times at Promise City Elementary. She was a remarkable lady that had a heart of gold. Thanks again.

  6. Just got my Seymour Herald today and read about Mrs. Bailey. I visited with her briefly at Centerville at the Continental one day a few years ago. I kept looking at her, feeling sure it was Mrs. Bailey, so I went over to her table and introduced myself. She remembered me! Even at her advanced age, she had a certain “elegance” about her. I remember her talking about her husband Walter, but don’t think I ever met him. I believe she was our last surviving elementary teacher, wasn’t she??

  7. Marilyn – I’m not sure if Florene Elgin is still living or not. Will have to ask some of our Plano friends. Good to hear from you. C.

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