Detour Down Memory Lane

8 Jun

A quick trip in and out was all I’d planned. But fate had something else in mind.

The store was buzzing with activity. Gingerly weaving between patrons, I trekked down the familiar aisles and raced back to secure my spot in the winding checkout line.

 Pitter-pattering my feet with impatience as the line crept forward, I searched for a worthy distraction. The neighboring bottles of fruit juices, wooden canes and organic candy would have to do. I was tinkering with a cane that boasted of ties with Africa, when an older lady with a regal air floated into line behind me. I turned, curious to learn the shopper’s identity. Not a flare of recognition. I offered the pretty lady a southern smile, a grin that says I don’t know you but hello, and returned to fiddling with all the merchandise within reach.

Finally, my turn arrived. I eagerly dumped my spoils before the glassy-eyed cashier: A bottle of jojoba oil and a bottle of organic lotion that I bought out of pity for the friendly salesman and its accompanying  free lipgloss. As the cashier tallied my total, a voice rang out from behind. “What is your name,” the lady behind me inquired.

Feeling around for in my bag, I stole a quick glance and uttered “LaShonda Cooks” matter-of-factly. The gasp that followed commanded my full attention. As her eyes welled with tears, I questionably searched the lady’s face for some clue, some modicum of revelation.

My elementary school counselor. Beneath the wrinkles the written upon her face and the shoulder length hair once worn closely cropped, she looked remarkably the same.

I guess I hadn’t changed that much myself in the last ten years. I tried to see myself through her eyes:The shy little girl cowering behind glasses, ponytails and chicken legs was now the tube-topped, dread-locked woman before her.

As we exchanged hugs and caught up, I was reminded of just how influential this woman was to the path I am traveling today.

She, along with so many teachers, have literally shaped my destiny through their encouraging words and whole-hearted investments in my potential.

She had recommended me for my first Talented and Gifted class, which helped me maneuver through Dallas’ ailing public school system virtually unscathed. 

“There is no such thing as a ‘self-made man.’ We are made of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us or spoken one word of encouragement to us has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts as well as our successes.” 

I thought about my favorite high school teacher who challenged me to look beyond the state of Texas for college and who covered the cost of my books for my first two years at Babson.

I owe these people so much. But my greatest gift to them would be realizing my potential, reaching my definition of success and leaving a legacy that spans beyond them and myself. That’s the plan, guys.

The collision with the past also made me wonder what that little girl with flopping ponytails, who dreamed of traveling the world, who hoped for something better,would think of me today.

Would she be proud? Disappointed? Would she laugh in disbelief when told she would one day travel to China, Macau, the United Kingdom, France, Japan and Russia?

Or would she smirk smugly and await the best part of her story?


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