Mrs. Arrison's first name was Phyllis. Even though I don't think she would have minded if I called her Phyllis, the 1960s code of conduct required young people to address their elders as "Mr." and "Mrs."
Mrs. Arrison had a contemporary way about her that was so different from other woman in my life. She was tall, walked with her shoulders square and with her head held high.
She wore her long dark blonde hair wound in a bun most of the time. Once in a while, she fixed it in a ponytail that would bounce back and forth as she moved about. On rare occasions, I saw her hair flowing freely over her shoulders, reaching the middle of her back.
Even the tack Mrs. Arrison took with me and other neighborhood kids was unusual.
She taught us to love nature; led litter cleanup campaigns around the neighborhood; plowed and plotted a kids' co-op garden space and taught us how to sow and reap; acknowledged our presence; spoke to us as grown-ups; shared her views; sought our input; encouraged us to be participants, not mere spectators; and empowered us. Everything about her exuded authority and justice.
Her playful laugh and the sparkle in her eyes made me hopeful for this brand of joy someday.
I loved Mrs. Arrison. I loved the way she was not the same as my mom and other moms in our neighborhood. I loved the way she made me feel holy and noble – the way she invited me to a larger place.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place national and state awards in The National Federation of Press Women competitions. Most recently, Damon's writing took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 Competition. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
� 2007 Paula Damon