Purple Trees and Orange Moons

Originally published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

I wrote this when I was much younger to say thank you to my Kindergarten teacher who genuinely made a difference in my life. This is the first article I wrote that was published in a nationally-circulated newspaper in the Philippines.

“My earliest memory of school is of purple trees and orange moons drawn with crayola on coarse white pad paper. Our teacher would stand back in puzzlement, trying to comprehend how we could have so much color on whatever planet we had arrived from. She would smile as she pointed out certain flora and fauna where we had scribbled away to sharpen our pencils. We would in turn laugh among ourselves at such a foolish attempt at art appreciation.

Despite her handicap of being an adult, all my classmates and I liked her. We went to her whenever we couldn’t open our thermos flasks and sandwich bags which had been very lovingly child-proofed by our moms. We liked our teacher not because she was the person in authority, but rather because she genuinely cared.

Our teacher was like the large window we had in our classroom, the bright boxes of light that cut across the pale morning shadows. Like the window, she let in just enough light for us to be comfortable with the knowledge that we gained each day.

We could rely on her to be there each morning to tell us stories, make us laugh, and show us the world. She told us that if we worked hard enough, we could be anything we wanted to be. And we believed her.

In the afternoon, after lunch, we would sing a song and then she would say goodbye and leave. We didn’t think about it much then because we had the next day to look forward to when she would be back with more stories and songs.

One afternoon, we put away our magnetic apples and our crayolas as we always did at the end of each day. We sang our usual song and then said our usual goodbye for the last time. It was time for each of us to move on, explore the world, and hope that there were songs and cookies wherever it was we were going.

The school is still there but my teacher isn’t. It doesn’t matter though because she has already done her part and I have done mine. The transfer of knowledge from one generation to another doesn’t take place in a single moment, but the inspiration to be a part of the future can.

Education can be the most wonderful thing in the world and the best teachers aren’t necessarily those that have mastered everything, they’re also those who have just little bit of knowledge but possess the patience to teach us a little bit at a time. Good teachers are those who have the courage to believe in change, the wisdom to know the way, and the strength to keep us from falling.

We each have our own version of purple trees and orange moons. We should commit that to our memories and learn to live with the fact that we have our own individual perspective of life. If we can’t do as much we deny our teachers the satisfaction of knowing that that they have made a difference in our lives.

Teachers are the unrecognized heroes of our times. Having grown old from a lifetime of pointing us in the right direction, they will never be able to reach the distance that we will cover in our lifetime. The least we can do is send them a signal from wherever we will be in the future to let them know that we have arrived.”

It has been 23 years since I wrote this and 42 years since my classmates and I said goodbye to our teacher for the last time. Since then, I’ve become a partner and creative director of my own design agency and I started the Bike Scouts project. This is my signal I’m sending to my teacher. I truly hope she knows that because of her and other teachers like her, I’ve made it.

Read more of what I’m thinking about!

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