What is the real meaning of bittersweet?
Is it when you see the girl you had a crush on throughout most of your high school years looking beautiful as ever, and apparently happy in the arms of the guy who was something of a rival of yours way back then? Is it when you are sincerely happy for the both of them all the same?
Or is it when you find yourself sitting across the table from some very familiar (and some, not so familiar) faces that you haven’t seen in decades, and you find yourself feeling the years in between slipping ever so comfortably away?
Or maybe it’s when you come face-to-face years later with a person who had a profound impact on your life, someone whose influence, profound as it was on a young, impressionable kid — wide-eyed with both innocence and the thrill of possibility — probably didn’t even realize it at the time. You find that despite this person being in her twilight years, she is still as sharp as ever, still has that twinkle in her eye, and that she’ll probably live to be one hundred years old.
I experienced all of those things and then some — as well as the wellspring of emotions accompanying them– today.
For those of you who enjoy reading my written pearls of whatever wisdom I have regarding music and the like, you are probably just going to want to skip past this entry. This one is personal – deeply so. You see today, after something like thirty some-odd years, I met “Miss Moo” – again.
Dorothy Mootafes (or “Miss Moo,” as we all used to affectionately call her) was my high school journalism teacher. She was not just any journalism teacher. Besides being the best damned teacher I can remember from my high school years (and West Seattle High had more than a few good ones back in the seventies), “Miss Moo” was also one of the very first people I met who convinced me that I actually had a talent for writing. She actually said I had a “gift.”
For Miss Moo, schooling a kid like me could not have been easy. You see I was one of the “bad kids.” By saying that, I don’t mean I was “bad” as in cruel, unkind, or anything of the sort, but I did have a knack for getting myself into trouble. Take the time I showed up to school drunk on my 18th Birthday. That day began when some of my pals from drama class took me out drinking that morning and ended with me passed out over a typewriter in the back room (or “City Room,” as us young, aspiring journalism students called it).
By the time of my senior year, I already had enough credits to graduate and was basically slacking my way through anyway. I could have been expelled for this, but Miss Moo (at least to the best I can figure) saved my ass. I got a birthday cake in class the very next day. Can you say embarrassed as hell?
The other thing was that in a class of kids who took this whole journalism thing pretty seriously, I had a rather unique way of making myself stand out. As most of my written work in my adult life has subsequently bore out, I was a rock and roll junkie even back then. I wrote a column called “Rock Talk” for our high school paper The Chinook back then.
Even though there is no possible way “Miss Moo” could have possibly understood what I was talking about in those columns most of the time (what’s that line from the Lovin’ Spoonful about “trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll”?), she not only put up with me, but also nurtured me as a writer. I don’t know exactly how she did it, but she saw right through all of my “rock-speak” and did her best to develop what I believe she saw as a possible diamond in the rough, which, again, couldn’t have been easy.
As detailed in my article on the Doobie Brothers, I was one of those seventies rocker kids who embraced both the music and the accompanying lifestyle with equal gusto. This meant I not only proudly wore the uniform of shoulder-length long hair and platform shoes (hey, it was the seventies), but also drank the booze and smoked the cigarettes (including that “wacky tobacky”).
“Miss Moo” knew all of this of course (not that I made much of an effort to hide it anyway). Today, she even commented every time I went outside of the restaurant for a smoke. Damn. She keeps track even now. Yet, she took me under her wing anyway. Seeing that sweet lady today all these years later confirmed forever in my mind that hers were the wings of an angel, something I’ve basically always known anyway. It was just nice for me to finally be able to say so to her face.
What was it I said again about the real meaning of “bittersweet”?