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Louise Glensloin


picture of a deck of cardsWomen Who Strode

When I think about the giants who have strode across my horizon I think of the women in my card club.  One of the things about card club that might surprise you is we don’t actually play cards.  The other thing is that 70% of the group’s members don’t wear underwear, whereas only 12% of the general population opts to go commando.  This information is important for you to know only because it means something about our psyche.  I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

I’ll start with Eva because it literally all started with her.  Eva is the group’s entertainment – the mood changes when she’s around.  Eva is funny but not regular-funny.  She’s the kind of funny on those 1950’s napkins that say things like “You say Bitch like it’s a bad thing.”  We both started teaching after children, husband and career number one so we had that in common.  We also had the benefit of looking older than our students, which helped with discipline.  She was a building mentor when I started teaching and the first time I remember thinking she was interesting enough to get to know was when she offered advice about teaching that was not the typical cliché-ridden kind.  “Louise, the key to successful teaching is to find your inner Bitch early, then don’t be afraid to use it.”

One of the first people Eva picked for card club was Betsy.  Betsy has a giant intellect and the tendency to say profound things that leave you running for a pencil.  I knew I liked her immediately when, gazing at Em’s boots she said, “In my day we called them fuck me boots.”  Em ran around all week whispering “Betsy-Larson-said-fuck-me-boots, Betsy-Larson-said-fuck-me-boots.”  I love people who surprise me and Betsy is like a movie with a surprise ending – she leaves you thinking.

Em said this like she says almost everything – like it was one word.  I’m not sure if it’s her brain or her lungs.  She was never was a swimmer or singer trained for lung capacity so I’ve always suspected her brain.  She gives the impression her mouth is always trying to stay in-step with her brain.  It would drive me crazy to spend so much time waiting for everyone around me to catch up.  It’s not completely true to suggest that none of us can get a word in edge-wise.  Maybe that’s the interesting part.

Shel is pretty funny too but in a clever, witty, often slightly shocking way.  For example, one time a bunch of us decided to compete in a drunken spelling bee.  She was one of the final contestants, losing to a word I still don’t know.  Forsissitant: f -o-r-s-i-s-s-i-t-a-n-t, forsisstant – or something like that.  Kathy Vagilante, the Drunken Spelling Bee Operator, was still ripping Shel’s name tag off her breast yelling “hand me your name tag bitch!” when Shel started murmuring “Fuck! I should have gone with the Greek word origin, not Latin, “ph” not “f.”  I’m too fucking drunk!”  This is what I mean . . . who the hell goes from trying to spell a word no one has ever heard of like Forsissitant to word origins so quickly?  Only the quickest wit can do that.  The rest of us need time to think.

Margaret was the biggest surprise.  She has spunk and attitude that are not immediately obvious.  It took me a while to figure this out because she doesn’t smile or intonate ahead of time when she’s going to sling a one-liner at you.  She’s deadpan funny.  I’m reasonably certain this is how she’s been able to spend so many years teaching middle school.  A classroom management style they don’t teach you in graduate school -- kind of keeps the kids off-guard so they need to pay close attention or risk missing something.

Jean isn’t funny but you don’t even notice.  I once asked her why she’d never bailed on working with the most challenging students.  Clearly she’s had many opportunities in 30-plus years.  She responded, “It keeps me honest.”  But it wasn’t this commitment to students I noticed first, It was the hootzpah.  She’s the person who can tell you what you need to know as well as what you want to hear because of the humility and heart that accompanies it. Her heart comes from her faith, and some personal family challenges – some with the kind of ending that leave one grateful, others that leave you sad but stronger.  I think she comes by the humility naturally.

Brio is more earnest than funny, but she has a great sense of humor, she’s smart and willing to do the hard work the rest of us shrink from.  Politics, public policy and making the teacher’s union better.  She’s quirky too.  Like if you give her three skittles it freaks her out, but two is fine, so is four.  Six is better but five is a problem.

Noni is the quiet observer of the group.  On the surface the two of us seem completely different.  She’s an introvert, I’m an extrovert.  She teaches pre-school, something I’d NEVER do.  It makes me nervous to join things, she knows herself so well she’s always been a democrat.  Never even once mentioned an inkling to vote Independent and she is my only ally to actually play cards.

The attitude is somehow essential, so is intelligence and dedication to students – treating teaching like it is our life’s work, rather than a job.  This was our original connection, doing what we do for more than a paycheck introduced us.  But over the years this has gradually changed into something important that just happens without a lot of effort.  Have you ever noticed that there are some things in life that are simply necessary component of a whole or complete thing?  Like there always seems to be a giant oak in magical places.  Or how food always seems to accompany important rituals.  They aren’t like scientific laws – they don’t have to be there to make sense, they just are because somehow they make things better – more meaningful.  Card club is like that.  I’d still be a dedicated teacher without them, but these giant women who have strode across my horizon have somehow managed to help me be a better person.