When I was a freshman in college, I fell in love with my English professor. Bald-headed, runtish, a soft spoken New Englander, he had studied under Robert Frost and even published some poetry of his own. He was married to an oldish-looking woman a full head taller than he, but I was never jealous of her. My love was pure. I wanted nothing of him except to be. It was hero worship all the way.
I went to a small college that freshman year and on occasions when student and faculty mingled, I would seek him out and engage him in lengthy conversation. He did all the talking and I did the listening, lapping up the beautiful flow of words couched in his melodious though soft voice and phrased in the New England dialect, strange to me, like a pussy cat laps its morning milk, purring all the while. I listened in class also, of course, and believed every word he said. We were required to do writing and once in a while, when he used examples from my papers to demonstrate a point, I welled over in pure ecstasy.
When Christmas came, I did not see how I could leave him the entire two weeks of our vacation, but home I went, reluctant and disconsolate. At home, Mother was dipping chocolates for Christmas. They were delicious. She made a variety of fillings -- chocolate, nut, strawberry, lemon -- and dipped them twice in the best quality of chocolate she could buy. She made hundreds of them and boxed them to use for Christmas gifts.
"How I'd love to send him a box of chocolates for Christmas," I thought as I yearned to hear again my professor's sonorous tone, "but I couldn't dare. That would be presumptuous of me!"
"Why not?" I argued with myself. "Just send them anonymously, and he won't even know!"
"But he would recognize the postal mark," my sensible self countered. "I am the only student in school from this town, and even though he probably doesn't knew where I'm from, he'd look it up if he was curious enough."
"Send it from another town," my lonely self insisted.
At that point my two selves got together, and we fixed the prettiest box of chocolates of the lot. Our home dipped chocolates lacked the shine of professional ones, so to compensate I made tiny cups of cellophane for each chocolate, interspersing clear with blue, I folded them in a special way I knew that made each cup look like a water lily blossom. This was a tedious task, but well worth the effort. The box looked beautiful when I finished. I then wrapped it with the loveliest of our wrapping facilities available, covered it all with innocuous brown for travel, and hastened off to a neighboring town to mail it in time for Christmas.
This set my Christmas off to a happy start, and I enjoyed the holiday, wondering on Christmas morning how he looked when he opened his anonymous gift. When vacation passed, I returned to school eager to hear his lovely voice again in English class. At the beginning of the hour, he asked me to stop after class to see him a moment. I was curious, but not worried. "Something about one of my papers," I surmised and settled down to enjoy class.
I waited patiently near his desk after class while he conferred with one or two students with questions, and when the room had emptied, he turned to me and said, "Thank you for the chocolates. They were certainly delicious."
Waves of desperation engulfed me. "How," I stammered, "how did you know who sent them?" I was too embarrassed to try to deny the act.
"I looked up the town that was post-marked on the package," he said. "Finding it was near the town where you lived, I decided the most unusual gift must have come from you."
"I'm glad you enjoyed it," I said, and stumbled from the room. I was humiliated that he knew who had sent the gift, but I soon found the worst was over. I was able to return to class and eventually even to address him in lengthy conversations again when opportunity arose, but I certainly would never have sent the chocolates if I had suspected detection was possible.
This quality of hero worship is still strong in me. I look at people as I want them to be rather than as they are. It's a hard way to live, but it's creative. That English professor was a better teacher than he would have been if I hadn't been hanging on every word. As a teacher, the student I know is a potential genius finds depths in himself he didn't know were there. My husband sees other points of view than his own partly, at least, because I so admire his tolerance. I live in a world where people are good even though they make mistakes sometimes.