(With my apologies to people who really know how to do math.)
This is the note that started it all. (Teachers, beware: You never know how literally your students are going to take what you tell them.)
When Mrs. Halley, my seventh and eighth grade English teacher, wrote the above note in 1971 or 72, she had no idea how seriously I would take her suggestion. Instead of looking over my stories after five years to see where I had improved, or to see if I had developed my own “style”, and then tossing them, I saved practically every story I ever wrote from that day until now. (Can you say 48 years?)
The problem was, I didn’t just write stories for class. I wrote just to be writing. Here is an excerpt from a letter my mom wrote to my grandparents in 1971. It continues on the next page, where she says that “thoughts and words just flowed” from my head.
So by the time I was in high school, I was still writing and saving everything. I’m guessing I was a sophomore when I wrote this one.
In 1973 when I was in my early teens, I had no idea I would ever be writing about how I actually “fixed” a washing machine when I was in my early 60s. (Click the link if you’re curios.)
So the story was about a future me, apparently a young housewife, who realized at the last minute that the washing machine was broken.
On the verge of panic, I searched my brain to think of something, anything, I could have learned in high school that would help me in this situation. After all, the teachers had always said, “You’ll need this someday…” (Truth in blogging: As a teacher, I said this many times over the years myself.)
Part of what “makes” this story is the fact that I was never good at math. With all due respect to all the math teachers who have felt like tearing out their hair when they found out I was going to be in their class, I guess it came in handy for something if it got me an “A” on this writing assignment.
Hurriedly I scrawled out what is either a proof or a theorem (I probably didn’t know which at the time, and I certainly don’t remember now!) But fortunately it worked, and I figured out the washing machine was broken. But there was still more. I had to figure out how to fix it.
Fortunately for me and the fictional washing machine, I had (barely) passed algebra. Now for the good part!
Okay, now we’re getting somewhere! Or are we?
I might mention here that my dad was a math teacher. He always told me to try drawing a picture to make a math problem easier to understand. So let’s continue…
So far, so good! I think we’re coming in for a landing.
In case all this “logic” is starting to get to you, take heart! The end is in sight.
I’m sure my teachers regularly breathed sighs of relief when they got to the end of one of my stories. So if you just did, don’t feel bad! The teacher wrote a tongue-in-cheek comment about how the difference between my “proofs” and “equations” and real equations and proofs is logic, “which does in fact exist.” But I still got an “A”.