I’ve known for decades that I need to write about Tom Durr. He attended my school for only a few weeks, and I don’t recall ever talking with him, but I’ve never forgotten what he taught me.
But it's not a pretty story, and there's the rub.
A year or so ago I forced myself to write “The Tom Durr Story” on a new blank Word document. I saved it on my computer, but couldn’t write more than that. I was stuck.
A week ago I forced myself to start writing and I got 270 words into it when I got stuck again.
For the past several days I’ve tried to write more, but I’m still stuck.
I’m not sure what my problem is (I have a couple of ideas), but it occurred to me that perhaps some of you will offer suggestions.
Here’s what I’ve written so far in this very rough draft:
I thought that teachers were saintly, set-apart beings, more intelligent and honorable than the average person, and that the rest of us would do well to revere and model our lives after them.
For that reason, I had admired Mrs. C., my sixth grade teacher. She ran a tight classroom but I always followed her rules and the two of us got along fine.
I still remember the day, more than half a century ago, when Mrs. C. extended grace and mercy to me at a time when my parents were struggling financially. My shoe’s sole had torn apart from the leather upper and it flapped every time I took a step. Mrs. C. whispered, “Let me slip this rubber band around your shoe to hold it together.” I’ve always remembered her kindness.
And I admired her fingernails—so much that I filed my nails into sharp points just like hers.
But in the latter half of sixth grade, when Tom Durr joined our class, Mrs. C.’s behavior led me to change my perspective on teachers.
And Tom Durr’s behavior led me to recognize what a genuine saintly, set-apart being looks like, for he was more intelligent and honorable than the average person, and the rest of us would do well to revere and model our lives after Tom rather than our teacher.
Tall, slender, and always well groomed, Tom had moved from Texas, or so I remember, and unlike the rest of us suburban Seattleites, he wore dark blue jeans and a jean jacket every day, always perfectly clean.
When Tom joined our class, I witnessed a different side of Mrs. C.
This is where I got stuck again—but I want to tell this story, I need to tell this story to my kids and grandkids! I need to find words to describe Mrs. C’s ongoing hate-fueled behavior—in front of our class—and Tom’s noble behavior in response.
What do you think is my problem? What would you do if you were stuck here? What has worked for you in the past?
I welcome your advice. (Also I welcome your critique of the paragraphs I’ve written.)
Thanks for helping me get un-stuck.