One truth you may as well know about me:
I love Audrey Hepburn.
She’s well-known for not only her ladylike qualities and fashion plate outfits, but also for her great humanitarian efforts once she chose to retire from acting. Plus, I mean, just look at her. If there’s ever been a more effortlessly elegant person in this world, I’ve never seen them.
Wait, actually, I have. My Grami is just as elegant, though not quite so famous or internationally-focused. Admittedly, I’m not so sure which is stronger: my admiration for my grandmother or my admiration for Audrey (I’m safe, she doesn’t read my blog).
Sometimes, when I hear people refer to Audrey as their “role model” or “idol,” I feel like a teenage girl meeting someone who introduces themselves as your BFF’s “best friend.”
Excuse me? You’re whose best friend? Bitch, I know you don’t think you know her like I do. She is MY best friend, not yours.
Who is your role model? Seriously? I don’t think so. Are you remodeling your hallway to turn it into a Breakfast at Tiffany’s-themed powder room? Nope. Audrey is MY idol, thank you very much, and it has nothing to do with what she said about the color pink.
SHE HAS REAL WISDOM PEOPLE, WHY DO YOU PICK THIS DUMB QUOTE TO REPEATEDLY PIN?!?
That’s better. Also, because I can, here’s a picture of her with her temporary pet fawn, aka the closest we’ll get to a real-life unicorn test.
I know that people can’t own people, thanks to Bfast @ Tiff’s, and obviously, I can’t own Audrey Hepburn – her spirit belongs to all of us.
But I still feel this deep sense of connection and belonging whenever I watch one of her movies or see a quote in something I’m reading. Audrey is everything I have ever aimed to be, all the while knowing that we’re very different people, and that it’s okay that we’re different.
Having said all that, this Thursday, I made what could have been the biggest mistake of my teaching career, and it was all Audrey’s fault.
Generally, the class I had first on Thursday morning is my most difficult class. Why? Oh, because someone said, “Hey, let’s take some really, truly sensitive kiddos who need special TLC and put them in the same class with a ton of football-playing, swaggering athletic bros. That’s an awesome idea.”
Except it’s not.
So, I was anticipating a big huge struggle during our weekly read aloud, which, as you may have guessed, was Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo. Getting them to care about some skinny white actress from the 60s wouldn’t be easy, I know. So, I did everything I could – posted up some famous photos, watched a couple of clips, and then I held my breath and dove in.
I’ve been really busy this week. Insanely busy, actually, so I didn’t take a read through the book before-hand. I figured I’d be reading it six times, and it’s a picture book, so I’d be fine.
Clearly, I wasn’t.
There were warning signs early on, when, on page four, I took a long pause after reading that her mother told her, “Other people matter more than you do,” to remind her how important kindness was.
It wasn’t that I found the idea disturbing, it just kind of threw something off in me. I was nostalgic for just a few minutes as I read the book. I felt all the feelings. And then, I got to the end.
The last page had quite a bit about her career in UNICEF and the speech she gave to Congress.
And as I was reading, it happened. Tears gathered in the back of my eyes, my voice got a little wavery-ish, and my cheeks heated up. I was so about to cry.
All I was thinking was, “You better not – you better not!” As I always tell new teacher recruits, “NEVER cry in front of your students. You can come back from a lot of things, but you can’t come back from that.”
But the most amazing thing happened. Just as I’m realizing I’m going to have to wipe my eye, hopefully nonchalantly, one of my kids says, “She’s kind of awesome.”
I was so startled, the tear stayed in my eye, and I looked right up at him.
“I mean, she like, gave up this really profitable career to spend her life in really gross places taking care of people she didn’t know, who probably looked and smelled disgusting, when she was like, this fashion person. It’s cool, but it doesn’t make sense.”
I didn’t really know what to say to him, so I just kind of made what I refer to as a Chandler face and nodded.
It looks like this, but not actually dancing:
“She’s really special to you, isn’t she Miss?” This question came from one of my smarty-pants students, in a very soft voice. I smiled and nodded, getting that crying feeling again.
“That’s really cool,” says the boy-child again. “You know, Miss, you’re kind of like her.”
“Yeah,” said another boy, “you’re always telling us to be ourselves and you’re always yourself and you like to help people, and you’re kind of like, tiny and gentle like her.”
“Plus, I mean, you wear a lot of clothes like hers sometimes,” one of my spunkier girls contributed. Grammatical errors aside, I saw her point.
“You guys – ” I said, looking all gruffly at them. “Don’t think that you can get extra credit for telling me that I’m like my role model.”
“C’mon, Miss. You know it’s the truth.”
We good-naturedly sparred for a little bit, me glad that the dimmed lighting covered my blush. And then we kept going with the lesson. The rest of the class period was amazing, too, by the way. They all busted it out and even helped each other when they needed to – I was impressed. But, of course, I was also in some sort of minor shock, having been told that I have, in many ways, become the person I always aspired to be.
I haven’t told this story out loud, and I don’t think I’ll be able to for a couple of weeks, because even thinking about it makes me tear up. It’s not just that Audrey’s an amazing person or that I’ve managed to become a little bit like her without realizing it. It’s also because Thursday was the day I realized that after all the nervousness and the trials that transitioning to high school has brought me, I’ve got these kids just like I had my middle schoolers.
In our own little way, we already belong to each other, and it’s only the second six weeks.