I don’t like science.
But I like Mr. Hastings, my 8th grade science teacher.
A tall, unlikely comrade with his horn-rimmed glasses, bow tie, and barely there, gray hair; with his starched, white, short-sleeved shirt – which never varies – but for the cardigan he wears when a chill is in the air.
Schooling restless, new teens hovering absent-mindedly over Bunsen burners and long braids, sharp scalpels, squeamish lab partners, and former frogs, must have its days.
Especially with the likes of me, barely squeaking out an apathetic C.
Yet Mr. Hastings rarely raises his voice. Rocking the cinder block walls with his frustration only once. Maybe twice.
Still I keep myself invisible behind students and books and beakers. Slipping in and out of class. Answering questions only when asked. Until I see some things on the science teacher’s desk.
Sitting on an old newspaper, near little, brown bottles, some brushes, and neatly folded rags, sit several pieces of small-scale dollhouse furniture, which somehow this giant-of-a-man created with his two giant hands, and a crippled right arm due to Polio.
Even though my female peers are now more interested in boys than theirs, there is little else that I adore more than my dollhouse.
Earned, gifted, and more than occasionally lifted from my Dad’s loose change I amass what cash I can to fill my two bedroom, one bath, pale yellow Colonial, with its newly shingled roof of hand-cut, balsa wood. (Jim’s community service for repeated dollhouse abuses.)
I inch my way closer to the old newspaper, longing to get a closer look at the tiny treasures which I normally have to view behind a locked, glass, display cabinet, guarded by a grumpy, old man, mistrustful of all youth.
Mr. Hastings notices. And there we begin – girl to man – sharing a common devotion.
Lifting a teeny-tiny chessboard into the palm of his illogically enormous hand, this towering 8th grade science-teacher-of-a-man describes with great care how he cut and varnished each itsy-bitsy square.
And I listen.
Ignited by his dedication.
Astonished by each delicate piece of miniature perfection.
I still don’t like science.
But I’ll always like Mr. Hastings, with his perfect bow tie, his pressed short-sleeved shirt and barely there, gray hair, and his remarkably gifted hands.