I Love You Miss Braaten

Mabel Braaten was 64 years old for about 20 years or so.

In those days (before the politically correct era), teachers had to retire at age 65.

Mabel wouldn’t retire.  She couldn’t retire.  So every year she was 64.  And the principal smiled and said “just one more year then?”.

Miss Braaten taught Grade 2.

At least that’s what the sign on the door said.

But the truth of the matter is that she taught life and love.

A teacher couldn’t do today what Mabel did then.  There are too many rules.

Grade 2.

And if you were sad or not feeling well, you knew the comfort of having her invite you to the front of the room to sit beside her, hold her hand and savor one of the endless butterscotch candies that were hidden in that cavernous desk.  Just one though.  More than that would have been bad for you.  Too much sugar.

If you were crying she hugged you.  A great big “this hug can heal anything” kind of hug.

If you were laughing, she laughed with you, never at you, her eyes sparkling with joy.

Everybody got a chance.  Everybody got a turn.  And everybody was special to Miss Braaten.

She had no children of her own.  She’d never married.  I heard tales of a romance gone wrong when she was much younger, but nothing that could be substantiated.

So in my 6-year-old heart of hearts, I vowed to marry her.

Miss Braaten lived across the street from my childhood home.  That meant that I walked to school with her every day.  We held hands on the way to school.  It was the safest place a 6 year old boy could be.

Marry her?   Silly childhood fantasy I guess.  But she was that special.

There was nothing politically correct about Miss Braaten.  In today’s educational world of edu-babble and correct-speak, report cards are largely useless to parents.  School administrations mandate what can and can not be said on a report card.  Wording is carefully monitored.  Mabel would never have stood for that type of reporting.  Sugar coating the truth would have offended her sense of “right”.  She would have marched down to the school board office, barged into the meeting and asked ” are you people out of your minds?’  And the school board would have changed it because she’d taught them when they were in Grade 2 as well.

Even though she lived across the street and had tea with my mother, even though we walked to school every day holding hands, when my first report card came home, along with the marks (all over 90 I say proudly) was this comment: “Saul is a very talented student.  His work is excellent and he learns quickly.  Would you please teach him to shut up?”.  Apparently I was a little too chatty for her liking.

That was Mabel.  Honest.  Direct.  Loving.

I was unpacking another box today as the seemingly endless wrap up to the move to our new home continues.  I found a picture of Miss Braaten.

I felt obligated to tell you about her.  Because I miss her.  And I’m sad because much of what she stood for doesn’t exist any more.

And I can almost hear her say “Saul, I can tell you are sad today.  Why don’t you come up to the front of the class and sit right here beside me?”

Mmmmmmm, butterscotch.

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12 thoughts on “I Love You Miss Braaten

  1. Well written Saul,
    Miss Braaten taught all of us Halvorsen kids, and I’m sure all of us feel the same way toward her! Life was different then, and we were lucky to have this gem as our school teacher. I was lucky enough to have contact with her in her last years. I was her Home Care Case Manager…and got to repay some of the kindness she gave to so many!! I consider myself so blessed to have had this opportunity! She still had the best smiles and hugs! ❤️️

  2. Miss Braaten was my Grade 2 teacher in the 1960’s and I loved her too!

    I don’t remember getting butterscotch candies from her, but if I told her my tummy didn’t feel good she would take me to the staff room and give me a chocolate puff cookie.

    I went to visit her in the 1990’s. She couldn’t quite remember me, but she was so gracious and invited me in. She asked who else was in the Grade 2 with me and we shared some stories.

    She certainly had a way of making every kid in class feel special. My other favorite teacher was Mrs Koopman in Grade 4. The good ones really do leave a lasting impression on the children.

    Thanks for sharing a beautiful story.

  3. Miss Braaten > I wish I could have stayed in grade two forever> she was a diamond in the rough & a five leaf clover all rolled into one of the greatest & nicest person ever put on this earth> Saul’s words gave me goose bumps > teachers back then were caring loving sincere who took the time to listen & fix what seemed like life’s major tragedies🙏🙏

  4. Well said Saul. Where are the teachers that made kids look forward to going to school each day. Things were taught in a much different way weren’t they? Kudos to all the teachers that really cared about the kids and not just the paycheck.

  5. I had some really good teachers and as recently as 10 years ago, there were still some really great teachers. My daughter’s Kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Cline. When my daughter finished Kindergarten and it was summer holidays, we were walking past another school and Taylor started crying inconsolably. I asked her what was wrong? She said she was really sad because she wouldn’t be seeing Mrs. Cline every day.

    That nearly broke my heart. That woman made a huge impact on my little girl. In fact, Mrs. Cline had given Taylor a little fuzzy chick for Easter. It had plastic legs and feet and it was teeny, tiny.

    Teaching can’t be much fun for teachers either anymore. My sister-in-law was my teacher in grade 2 as well, and I got to go HOME with her almost every day – and in fact – I got to live with her for a year a few years later. She was such a great teacher, but she really doesn’t have the passion for it anymore because of all the stupid rules and regs. Sad.

  6. That so nice and refreshing, days of long gone bye and they were wonderful days. I know I was there and had teachers like her. Thanks for sharing. Mim

  7. So nicely put and again, so very true and touching. It brings back memories of my grade 4 teacher, Miss Major, who also had the same caring and empathy like Miss Braten. It was the teachers like them that made the going to school and getting educated fun and challenging.

  8. Nice piece, at first I thougt it was canned from somewhere else but it’s personal – well done. I would have liked to hear you read that on the radio. I used to tune in to 98.5 just to hear your voice, perfect timbre and delivery, when the music started, I’d switch stations – the opposite of what I do with every other station.

    You are right about the insidious erosion of our education system. The losers are the kids.

  9. Hi Saul,
    Great account of a marvelous human being! Isn’t is sad that we are so afraid of caring these days. I miss the Miss Braaten’s of the world.
    Cin

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