Mrs. Helen Thompson

She wore her glasses around her neck on a silver chain. Her hand was so graceful when it held the chalk as she wrote:

Mrs. Helen Thompson

She had the most beautiful handwriting I had ever seen. My mother’s was chicken scratch, on the grocery pad under the phone that hung on the kitchen wall, compared to hers. My father’s slanted against the grain. It was 4th grade, she was my homeroom teacher, and this was the year we would learn cursive handwriting.

And this was also when I would discover my love of words. Not necessarily the meanings, but how they looked as she wrote them on the blackboard. Mississippi.


Backwards dot the i’s four times. My favorite state name. So fluid and fun to write. I fell in love with spelling – how the letters fall together.


In the evenings, if his mood allowed, I would ask my father to pick up the big dictionary and quiz me choosing words between pages that also contained waxed paper folded over pressed pretty wild flowers my sisters and I would collect on summer camping trips. He would say the words, and I would sound them out.

I would receive 100’s on my report cards instead of O’s for Outstanding or S’s for Satisfactory for never missing a word.

Mrs. Thompson wore narrow wool skirts and blouses with ruffles down the front and on the cuffs. Ladylike in light hues of peaches, pinks and blues. Her hair was salt and pepper, and I’m sure she had it set once a week, for her curls were perfectly stiff every Monday. She wore pins in the shapes of flowers on the corners of her cardigan sweaters she would wear around her shoulders, but she never put them on, for fear that they would cause a wrinkle.


The cursive alphabet flowed from my hand as I was repeatedly brought up to the chalkboard to write down the list of spelling words for the week. Then came our signatures.

Jennifer Jasper

Arrrggghh!! Beginning with two capital J’s and ending with two small r’s. Symmetry aside, I was stumped. They erupted crooked and ugly from my hand. Curses to my mother who gave me the name I could neither say nor write.

In my dreams I traced the letters, and the ethereal Mrs. Helen Thompson would write it over and over. I would stay inside for recess to practice with her. I became obsessed. It had to be perfect. My critic was born.

By the time I left 4th grade, I was the best speller and cursive writer, and my signature was as smooth as the Peter Pan Peanut Butter my father would spread on his Rainbow Brand white bread.

Jennifer Lynn Jasper

Children no longer learn how to sign their names, their unique signature never to be discovered. This makes me melancholy.


©2017 J.L. Jasper All rights reserved.



  1. I was thinking of her the other day. She helped foster my love of books. Last count 3,001 and one on backorder.

  2. Where would we be without our teachers, right? Play scripts are great, but when are you going to write that great American (or in your case, Americana) novel? You are able to reach the child in us that still lingers inside behind the adult facade.

  3. Wow. I’m sure you made her – and all your other teachers who cared about words – unspeakably proud. This is beautiful. Please don’t stop writing! Ever!

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