I ran into a former student--a sweetie in class, soft spoken with a nice smile. On a carpeted dais near the entrance of a church I was visiting, she popped out from behind someone and said, "Remember me?" That old smile touched her lips.
"Of course. How's it going?" My mind scoured year-and-a-half old seating charts. I remembered where she sat, just not the name that went with the desk.
Her face fell. "You don't remember my name."
"I'm sorry. No, I don't. It's at the beginning of the alphabet, no?"
She circled the group, agitated. I asked her for her name and she said, "Emilia." Which was not her name. The others standing there acted like they didn't remember, either. Finally, it came. I said it and apologized again. She smiled and said that's all right.
I'm abysmal with names. Consider: I get 60-80 students a year, for the past seven years. I work hard to get the names down fast, poring over old yearbooks. I practice their names as they enter, work in class, leave, pass me in the hall, play sports. But I still stumble in remembering.
I sometimes sit a half hour on the bus before I remember the driver's name whom I haven't seen for a week--not to mention a year and a half.
A few years back, in the hometown post office, I bumped into an old teacher of mine and greeted her. She said she didn't remember me, not my face nor my name. What's more, she didn't really care to know either, nor what I was doing now, nor see all the photos of children I didn't have. She didn't say these things, but she might as well.
Dear students, past, present and future, I promise to recognize your face--unless it changes or I'm hit by a truck or Larry, Curly and Moe poke my eyes out. I promise to want to know what's going on in your life--unless I'm headed to the hospital for emergency hernia repair. Seriously though, I love you guys--no matter what you do--unless you sniper-down innocent people for a living and eat puppies for breakfast. Please forgive my name-memory. It is flawed.