I had just finished swimming my mile at the Apex Center. There are three pools there that have been able to reopen at Covid capacity. I swim at the lap pool, which has become a true gift. The two other pools are family recreation pools complete with water slides, fountains and all kinds of fun stuff. It is amazing to me that a limited number of kids can make so much noise. Today while I was swimming my laps I could hear a universal sound. A cacophony of screams, yips, laughter, squeals, and general kid mayhem. This is a universal noise that is the same in Mexico, China, Europe, or Wash Park. There are no discernible words— just joy expressed.
As I was driving home I thought about that sound and the word “cacophony”—a harsh discordant collection of sounds. I learned that word in my Vocabulary Building class taught by Jean Mccown. I was asked a month or so ago who my favorite high school teacher was. For me it was easy. Mrs. Mccown. I had her for English literature, Advanced Composition and Vocabulary Building, all of which have stayed with me these many years.
I got home and ate my dinner. It was January 6, and I was trying not to watch the tragedy of the coup d’eta inspired by The Liar In Chief. I got a notice on my Face Book app that Muriel Jean Mccown had died New Years Day. The irony of having just a few moments before, finding myself reminiscing how much I learned from her and now acknowledging her passing on a day of betrayal was not lost on me.
Jean Mccown was grace incorporated. A very classy lady with a South Carolina accent, which at Pueblo East High was something to behold. She was the kind of teacher that made you want to learn. She even made Silas Marner fun. My brother in law Dave Marquez said, “She was the first teacher that made me believe I was smart”.
We read McBeth where I memorized, “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day. To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The Way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.
I repeated every line of it and could see Jean Mccown with her slight and warm smile knowing that the truth of such a moment is timeless. It was an appropriate response to the tragedy of a pathological narcissist and his cult followers attacking the the heart of our democracy. It was a night I will never forget. I found my moorings in my memories of knowing my favorite high school teacher was one of my anchors.
Jean Mccown was an honest optimist. We learned that literature could help us look life straight in the eye with to totality of the good, the bad, the ugly and know grace is in our midst.
Onward and Upward, Mark