A voice message from the past

Published 7:34 pm Monday, September 2, 2013

I usually check the voice mails at my office in the morning with a mixture of anticipation and dread.

What lies behind that little red light on my phone? Are there going to be ideas about good stories, or tips about tragic ones? Is it going to be a string of innocuous messages asking questions about church news, the community calendar, and how the reader can get a copy of a paper from 1973? (For the record, the answer to that last question is to go to the Morgan Memorial Library and ask them to show you the microfilm machine.)

Or, will it be my (and every journalist’s) worst nightmare — someone telling me I got something wrong in a story?


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Recently, however, I got one of the most pleasant messages I have had on my office voice mail in quite a while.

I punched in my extension and password and followed the prompts to get to my voice mails. That’s when I heard the voice of my seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Mildred Morgan.

Mrs. Morgan was a legend at Peninsula Christian School/James River Christian Academy, a school in Smithfield that changed its name in 2000 and, sadly, closed in 2007 after 35 years of serving the community.

I don’t know how long Mrs. Morgan worked there, but it was a long time. She presided over many years of students memorizing poems, slogging through novels, writing essays and copying all their spelling words three times each, every single night.

When she wanted to give us a hint that something would be on a test or that there would be a quiz on our homework, she would tell us in her thick Southern accent to make “doubly, doubly certain” that we studied or did our reading.

She was one of those teachers you ran to when you were upset at school or when you needed advice. She was the grandmotherly type that gathered you in her arms at a moment’s notice and told you everything was going to be OK.

Like many of the teachers from before I entered high school, I thought I would likely never see or hear from her again. That’s why I was so pleased to hear that voice mail. She told me she lives just across the line in North Carolina and reads the paper — and my columns — frequently.

I would love to talk to her again. The only problem is that she didn’t leave her number.

So, Mrs. Morgan, give me a call again. But if I’m not here and you have to leave a voice mail, give me your number this time.