We went to see our fifth grader teacher yesterday. His name is Mr. Danielson, but we always referred to him as “Mr. D.” He is retiring this year, which is an incredible misfortune to all future fifth graders.
For me, I never wanted fifth grade to end because of how great Mr. D made it. Every morning, Mr. D would write out the class schedule on the white board. He would even set out the times and it seemed incredible to me that he would stick to the schedule perfectly. And every day, Mr. D had a new story to tell and the entire class would be entranced by the way he would deliver each story. He was the best storyteller I ever knew.
Yesterday, Leah, Steph, and I stood behind the high fence, where Mr. D’s class were lined up for a last kickball (baseball but with a dodgeball instead of a baseball) game. We watched him be the referree and Leah was first to notice the pair of shorts he wore, a pair we knew from when we were in his class. An 80s style pair that came down to his knees, a wild fish print with stipes of neon green and orange–they could have belonged to a clown. He is a clown.
A girl kicked a pop-fly out to right field.
Mr. D cheered her on, “Go, Diedre! Go!” He clapped his hands as she reached first base. Then he looked over at the three of us (the ones two to three feet taller than the rest of the kids) and said, “And to think I have to take care of all these report cards after this.”
Leah suggested, “We could do them for you!”
Mr. D rubbed his bald shiney forehead, “No, no. I can’t let you do that. I’d get fired.”
Leah, Steph, and I looked at each other. Puzzled, we looked back at Mr. D and chuckled.
“You’re retiring, Mr. D…” Leah smiled.
“That’s just what I’ve been telling them!” he nodded in our direction and it reminded me of all the times he joked around with us as little kids. Joking about being 5’1 and an incredible basketball player. About how all his drawings of horses turned out to look like dogs, when really it was the other way around.
We reminded him of the Story he told. It was the Story. The Six Day Story. It took six days to tell and it was all about a dream that Mr. D had over a period of three consecutive nights. Although I have forgotten a lot of how it went, I do remember the “slegna” characters and how much it shocked me when Mr. D pointed out that “slegna” is “angels” spelled backwards. The “Oppressors” were the tendents of Hell and ultimately evil. I remember it had a huge impact on my own personal faith because of the incredible parallel it offered to one’s spiritual journey. We all told Mr. D that we believed he should write the story out and publish it in a book. He said he hopes to and I honestly believe he could be the next biggest thing next to CS Lewis. Maybe even better.
Mr. D added, “There’s a beginning to a fourth part now, too…”
The three of us were so excited, “What fourth part?!”
“You should see the kids reaction when I talk about it, too,” Mr. D said. “I’ll say, ‘And he saw a woman there.’ And the kids will ask, ‘Who was she?’ and I’ll say, ‘I can’t tell you her name.’ And the kids will get so upset and ask, ‘Why?!’ and I’ll shock them when I say…” and Mr. D lowered his voice to a very serious whisper, “‘Because if I do… they’ll die.'”
I found my hands clinging to the diamond fencing, mouth hanging open. Already, he had captured me and drawn me into his wonderful world. I probably don’t even know it, but he could be the reason why I love storytelling so much and why Leah always tells me, “I love the way you tell stories.”
I don’t remember what I learned in the fifth grade, but I do remember who I wanted to be like. I saw him yesterday and he hasn’t changed a bit. Well, except for the fact that he’s so much shorter.