Until he retired two years ago, we were in consistent, if sporadic, touch every couple of years, starting maybe ten years or so after I graduated. But this was the first time in a long time, perhaps owing to email changes along with emeritus-ness.
The letter wasn't just for me; it touches on a professorship in his and his wife's name, and came on University stationery. But he added a substantial note that was just for me - and, again and still, it's kind of wonderful to be remembered.
Even more, he reminded me of something I could hardly have forgotten. He used a story of mine in his classes for about twenty-five years.
I haven't seen the thing myself in that long. The characters are hazily relevant memories, but the course of the tale escapes me, apart from the two main details I remember the professor's commenting on long ago.
The story is the first piece I ever wrote in first person from a male point of view, and I recalled that during the very earliest stages of working on The Ax and the Vase, when I was grappling with that POV and leaving myself open to the possibility of changing that. It's also well before any attempt I ever made to write historical.
On the one hand, I'd love to reach out to my prof and see if I could get another copy of the story. Back then, we typed onto ditto forms, and the English department secretary probably had to make the copies - or the prof himself did. Ahhh, purple ditto sheets. You literally *had* to be there, kids. Mimeographs gave our schools a very subtle and particular perfume for decades before digitality.
It's a curious thing, knowing my most embryonic work has been read by hundreds of students for all these years. It's hard to really feel that, to know it. Belief is a trick; while I accept the literal (har) facts, conception of doesn't really follow. I can hardly conceive of twenty year olds at all anymore, never mind relate to what I was as one myself, or - failing to remember the work very well - what effect anything I wrote back then could possibly have in all the ensuing years, an entire generation away now, since I put it down.
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Labeled for re-use
I wonder whether any of you has a nimbler imagination than mine ...
And who's still in touch with a former teacher ... ?