Dear Debbie Vol. II

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Dear Sister,

A friend of mine who you would love as much as I do gave me a box filled with tiny cards of inspiration. I open one card each day that I need a little pick me up. They are my, “Be Happy,” cards. I appreciate them ever so much, and the woman who bestowed upon me a gift that keeps on giving.

Much like yourself sister.

Today was a magical day and also a trying one. It has been an interesting few weeks. There are so many things I wish we could discuss with one another. So many conversations that have yet to be had. I have a lot of them in my brain and then I think to myself, “Well that’s just ridiculous because I’m locking it all away, better to share, or write it down for myself and then I can reflect on it later.”

Whenever I want to talk to you I end up turning to writing. It seems to be the best and most helpful thing to do. It’s just so hard to let it all simmer. I have to make something with this tear soup, sometimes I share it, sometimes I let it boil over and form something new in my mind.

Today was a special day at Ridgewood Elementary School. You would have loved it. You always brought people together and you still do.

I parked my car, on the neighborhood street and made my way towards the school. It is such a familiar parking lot, one I have visited so many times that I cannot even begin to count how many. But this time was different. I was not nervous, I just knew that a part of me would be sad because you wouldn’t be there.

Walking up to the school made me think of the familiar sights, the familiar smells, and the familiar vibe that Ridgewood has always had.

You should have seen all of the familiar faces coming together to honor you. It was beautiful to see all the students who loved having you as their librarian all gathered there. Some of them were so tall, so grown up, so stoic, so poised, so curious, and many of them gazing and looking away. I could just see your response to their presence in your library. You would have strolled over casually and had that amazing smile across your face and then started the conversation off with, “Well, it’s nice to see you __,” then given them a kind shoulder nudge or hug to welcome them back into the friendliest space in the building.

There were a lot of memories in that library for me today.

I remember coming to shelve books during my early college days, the smell of old papers and bindings. The sound of the type writer with labels and forms being typed up. The clicking of the keyboard, and the swipe sound as the library books were checked in and out. I can see you and Diane behind the counter chattering away and laughing, fleeting visions disappeared before my eyes.

As I looked around, every corner had a different memory for me. What must Declan have felt in there too?  He was busy in the window space playing a game of chess surrounded by other little fellows all concentrating on the game.  All of us, so many memories, positive, happy, beautiful memories that seem tangible, yet so far away.

The desk has been moved. The stuffed animals atop the bookshelves are different and there were less faux plants than I remembered.  The door to the garden was open and there were birds chirping and sun spilling in amongst the kids wandering in and out. The chess board is the same one, and it sits in pools of sunlight that break through the window.

Walking to the back of the library where your desk and piles of books used to be, I spotted a familiar sight that made me smile.

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Nina was your first author friend. I remember seeing the photograph of you two when she visited Ridgewood. What a special magical day that was. You were ecstatic and beaming.

It’s funny how so many memories are intertwined into moments we shared with one another. How those moments piled up on one another for me today.

You provided me with such a strong professional educational foundation in your school. Your colleagues welcomed me with open doors to observe, learn, grow, and question as an undergraduate student. I started as a volunteer, continued my observations, and with a masters degree graduated into a substitute teacher in the building. Your principal helped provide me with the most generous half hour of my career. I had the best coaching lesson for interviews in that school. I learned to be honest about what made me a unique individual, a forthright pioneer for education, and how to answer questions in a direct manner.

Little did I know, or any of us know that our paths would cross in this way today, all of which to honor you. Your work, your passion, and your connectivity to humanity in a community that grieves for your presence.

Sweet Catherine said she could feel you in the library today. Truer words were never spoken. I could feel you too. You touched so many wonderful student’s lives and so many community members gathered today to honor you.  Dad recited poetry and dedicated and a wonderful poem to you by Alice Cary:

True worth is in being, not seeming,— 
In doing, each day that goes by, 
Some little good—not in dreaming
Of great things to do by and by. 
For whatever men say in their blindness,
And spite of the fancies of youth, 

There’s nothing so kingly as kindness,
And nothing so royal as truth.
We get back our mete as we measure—
We cannot do wrong and feel right, 
Nor can we give pain and gain pleasure,
For justice avenges each slight. 
The air for the wing of the sparrow,
The bush for the robin and wren,
But always the path that is narrow
And straight, for the children of men.

‘Tis not in the pages of story 
The heart of its ills to beguile, 
Though he who makes courtship to glory
Gives all that he hath for her smile. 
For when from her heights he has won her,
Alas! it is only to prove 
That nothing’s so sacred as honor,
And nothing so loyal as love!

We cannot make bargains for blisses,
Nor catch them like fishes in nets; 
And sometimes the thing our life misses
Helps more than the thing which it gets.
For good lieth not in pursuing,
Nor gaining of great nor of small, 
But just in the doing, and doing
As we would be done by, is all.

Through envy, through malice, through hating,
Against the world, early and late.
No jot of our courage abating
Our part is to work and to wait
And slight is the sting of his trouble
Whose winnings are less than his worth.
For he who is honest is noble
Whatever his fortunes or birth.

I know that I am sending this out into the blog-a-sphere in the hopes that it reaches you. My tears wash over me and soothe my aches as I type words for you that you cannot read, but I know you would love to. Signing off with sparkles from earth, from your little sister.

Thank you to Debbie Ridpath Ohi for creating a beautiful image of Debbie. The picture to honor Debbie Alvarez will live in the library with new books displays under the art. Some beautiful new books are already in circulation.

Please check out: “Cranes of Hope,” on Facebook for more information about a beautiful nonprofit organization that a former student of Debbie’s started long ago and is continuing to blossom and grow. This student’s creations help patients going through cancer treatments gather hope each time they visit. She lovingly creates paper cranes and delivers them to locations around the greater Portland community. Her work can always benefit from positive support. ❤

6 thoughts on “Dear Debbie Vol. II

  1. Thank you for talking about Debbie. I miss her and I never met her in person. I pray that sending your words into the blogsphere gives you peace and happiness as your words do for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Every time I read your work I get the warm and fuzzies. Your writing really paints the perfect picture of who Debbie was and shows how truly close your sisterly bond was/still is. Beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

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