“Miss Lovely. There’s one name left.” I look up to see Timmy standing in front of my desk with a piece of paper caught between two fingers. His blond shaggy hair hangs over his eyes, in dire need of a haircut, but this seems to be the style nowadays. I can never keep up with the trends of high-school students.
“Are you sure everyone got one?” I look around the room to see everyone else already starting to write their letters. I signed my class up for Adopt-a-Marine as part of their Civics project. Everyone was excited to do it, mostly because I don’t think any of them had ever written an actual letter before. I’ve been with this group of students as their seminar teacher for two years now and still have another two years to go before a new batch will be assigned to me. Hopefully by that point, most of these kids will be off to college.
When the idea of doing Adopt-a-Marine was mentioned, the whole class seemed super excited, which is showing now with everyone already eagerly writing their letters. I wasn’t sure how they would respond to this project, but so far, so good.
“Cindy,” I sigh, forgetting that she transferred out two weeks ago. “I’ll take it.” I hold my hand out to take the paper from Timmy. I hadn’t planned on doing one myself, thinking I’d have my hands full keeping everyone else’s letters straight, but I wasn’t going to let one of the names we got assigned go unanswered. The thought of someone not getting a letter makes my heart ache.
Our letters may not be life changing for the Marines, but I think they’d help. I don’t like the idea of some of the men from the unit not getting their letter when everyone else did, so taking a name is the least I can do.
Looking down at the scrap of paper, a warm feeling rushes through my system as I realize then just how hard this might actually be. I’m not really sure what to write, but if twenty of my students can do it, surely I can, too.
“Looks like you’re stuck with me, Sergeant Major Mark Gunner,” I mumble to myself. Sheesh. I hope I don’t bore the poor guy to death with stories about my cat or what I’ll be baking over the weekend.
Pulling out a notepad from my desk drawer, I decide to keep it simple. Start things off light and it should be easy enough. I give myself a little encouraging pep talk and hope for the best.
Dear Sergeant Major Gunner,
It looks like you got stuck with me as your pen pal. I hope I won’t bore you with my stories about my latest baking experience, but maybe I can make that up to you by sending some of my homemade goodies. You’ll just have to tell me what you like and don’t like. Raisins? Nuts? White chocolate chip? Let me know and I’ll send you a whole box of something.
I guess I should start off with a little bit about myself. As you might know, your unit got assigned to my class as part of the Adopt-a-Marine project. One student transferred out a few weeks ago, so now you got me. The teacher.
I’ll start with telling you a little about myself. I’m a twenty-four-year-old teacher in South Carolina. I went to Clemson University—go Tigers! But you probably might want to know that I know nothing about the football team there. Except that I’m supposed to say ‘Go Tigers!’ I teach English, and this is my second year in the trenches of high school. I spend my weekends trying out new recipes, or with my nose shoved in a book. I love the color pink, can’t stand when someone chews with their mouth open, and could spend days cuddled up on my couch and be utterly content. Some might call me a homebody.
Wow! This feels like I’m filling in a dating website application. As you can see, I ramble when I get a little out of sorts, and writing a strange man seems to have done that to me.
I look forward to your letters and making you a little less strange to me.
Stay safe, and thank you for everything you do for our country.
Ms. Katie Lovely
The bell rings as I sign my name at the bottom of the page. The students hurriedly pack up their belongings, wanting to get to lunch.
“Everyone, drop your letters on my desk and I’ll mail them out today,” I shout, half of them not paying attention to what I’m saying, but they all do as I say as they make their way out of the classroom, dropping letters into the box on the corner of my desk as they pass.
Sitting down in my chair, I look at the letter I wrote, and for some reason I have the urge to crinkle it into a ball and start over. It’s silly that I’m embarrassed to write a man I’ll never even meet, but I’ve never been great with men. I can barely talk to one without my fair skin turning cherry red to match my hair.