An Open Letter For My First English Teacher

Mr. and Mrs. George Rugh
August 13, 1966

I wish I could show up to be near you to thank you for being my first English teacher.  I was about to turn fourteen years old, and could not speak a word of English.  You were the spinster parishioner in the church that hired my Dad, a Romanian Orthodox priest, to serve St. Elias Orthodox Church in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania.  You and others treated us kindly, took pity on us, and offered all that you could to welcome us and help us become established.

You were my particularly favorite person because you and your brother spoke broken Romanian, peppered with English, and mischievously taught me to call all boys “honey”.  Just like Red Skeltom though, you would laugh so heartedly, I knew you were joking.  I loved that you invited me to visit you at your home where you two also lived with your Mom.  I often remember how hospitable you were to invite me to join you for dinner.  I ate my first Venison roast with you.  The plums were picked from the trees just outside, and your warmth filled a void in my life.

Often you had just arrived from the glass factory where you inspected the pieces, and your eyes were tired yet you always wore a smile.  I blush now to think of how it must have been to have this teenager show up to visit.  I loved crossing the railroad tracks to be

You taught me word by word.  I would repeat each one.  I wrote them down.  I counted my progress.  We had a good laugh with the word “WORLD”…   couldn’t say it right and then you had a brilliant idea…You said to say ‘war”…and then “old”…Then you told me to speed it up, say it fast, and then together…  I finally got it…  The wonderful ways you taught me how not to be afraid of speaking.  Somehow…by the time I was eighteen, I went off to college as an English major.  By my twenty-second birthday, I was teaching at the school I student taught.

Like it or not, Little Sister, as you said you were, the magic began in the classroom of your life, and just in case I didn’t formally thank you, this is it :  MULTUMESC ; I’m kidding.  The Romanian thank you is to razz you.  I am grateful to you.  I love the English language.  You taught me the difference between a roof and a ceiling.  You taught me a great deal about humility, friendship, and understanding.  I remember your visits in time…as I remember being there when “Georgie” called you for a date.  You were always so beautiful.  You were always fit and went square dancing.

You made me feel so special.  I have kept your letters, and cartoons.  I remember the secret Valentine cards.  I keep warm with your sister Valeria’s blankets.  You were so generous with me…and I wish we could have frozen the moment in time at the Iao Needle where you said you would be every weekend if you lived on Maui.  I cannot thank you enough for being such a delightful part of my life…my Guardian Angel.

You taught how to dress, how to wear a hat, and have the confidence of singing in the choir.  You were a model friend dear Little Sister…  You knew just what I needed to learn, and your patience was divine.

My parents knew the role you played in my life.  They were equally grateful, and what an honor to know my dad married you and George,and Zina to Pete, your beloved brother.  All of you were an inspiration of love and loyalty.

Today we are miles away…and I can merely hope you will see this letter.  I will try to send it to your nephew Johnny Adam…  Wherever you are out there, know I carry a treasure of you in my heart.  God bless you Mary, my Marioara.  I keep you in my thoughts and prayers…

I love you always,

Nico…

PS: Here is an endearing quote :

“He that does good for God’s sake seeks neither praise nor reward, but he is sure of both in the end.” __William Penn


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