This originally started out to be a post about my first attempt at making peanut butter granola balls, but then I got to thinking about how kind the lady was to post the recipe online for anyone to make them, and then it evolved into a post about Connie. Strange how that works.
Connie was a sweet lady with whom I taught English years ago. To say she was eccentric is putting it mildly. She was a little bitty thing with ginormous hair (I started working there in '89, and her hair never made it out of the 80's), and she teetered along on stiletto heels all the time. She was known to show up for school in a big old floppy hat -- we're talking Kentucky Derby quality here -- and it was worth going to prom every year just to see what Connie was wearing.
She's the only teacher I've ever known who got sent home to change clothes because they were inappropriate for school. That actually happened before my time, so I only know it as hearsay, but based on some of the outfits she DIDN'T get sent home for, it's very believable. She wore leggings even when they weren't in style, but she didn't necessarily wear the long cover-up tops that have cycled through the popularity phase a couple of times. Her tops didn't quite cover her rear, and they were likely to be low-cut on top of that, so it sometimes looked as if she were wearing a blousy bra and pantyhose. I know I'm not explaining this very well. She was middle-aged, so she should have known better, even if her body was still in good enough shape that she could carry it off.
Connie's classroom (in addition to her classes) was a disaster. There were stacks and piles and jumbles of papers, textbooks, workbooks, file folders, student work from the 60's (maybe), and just plain old JUNK strewn around her whole room. I'm no neat freak, but her classroom made me twitch. And her students just ran all over her. She babied them, even calling every single one of them "baby," and I'm sad to say she didn't do a whole lot of teaching. Her students made fun of her, but they weren't mean to her. They loved her because she loved them, and it wasn't their fault if she didn't teach them a blooming thing all year. But she was a wonderful person, generous and kind and funny and impossible not to like.
Right after I started teaching there, Connie brought in a coconut cake to school. I'm not a huge fan of coconut, but I AM a huge fan of cake, so I tried a piece. It was good enough to make me a die-hard coconut lover on the spot. I cannot describe the deliciousness of that cake. It was apparently her trademark, and everyone vied to get one of Connie's coconut cakes, even folks from other departments. When I (eventually) didn't have a mouthful of cake, I asked Connie if I could have the recipe.
She looked me dead in the eye and said, "No."
She didn't say anything else, and I stuttered and stammered for a moment. I kind of thought she was kidding for a moment, and I fully expected her to break into her tittering little laugh. Then she continued.
"If I started giving out the recipe, anyone could make it," she said. "Then it wouldn't be special anymore."
I couldn't argue with her logic. But I'd never had anyone REFUSE to give out a recipe before. I was stunned, to say the least.
Years later, when I got to know Connie better, I understood a little more fully. I didn't hold a grudge about the cake recipe, because it was just one of the eccentricities that made Connie Connie. Eventually she told me if I ever left that school, she would share the recipe with me. In that moment I knew I had become Connie's friend.
Of course I did eventually leave that school, and Connie didn't get around to sharing the recipe with me. It was probably buried somewhere beneath fourteen tons of paperwork in her classroom. I had other things on my mind as well, having just married Hubby and preparing to move on to another high school. I've taught in several places over the years, and that English department was the closest-knit group of co-workers I've ever had the privilege to work with. With the possible exception of my current co-workers, since there are only five of us.
Not too long after Hubby and I married, I was in the kitchen one morning and he was reading the paper. He called into the kitchen, "Do you know Connie ________?"
"Yeah," I said, "Why?"
"She drowned in her apartment swimming pool this weekend."
I was shocked, to say the least. She was only 54, and apparently she couldn't swim. I remember there being some speculation at the time that prescription drugs may have been involved, but her death was ruled an accident.
Now before you get all judgmental and start throwing accusations around that my first thought upon hearing of Connie's death was the fact that I would never get that coconut cake recipe, let me set the record straight and say that was my SECOND thought.
My first one was, "Holy mother of all that's holy, who is going to have to clean out her classroom?"