He told me that no matter what anyone else tried to tell me, I was a writer and there’s no getting around that. He was right about that. He told me not to be a Winnie Cooper, because Winnie Cooper was a bitch, I had never heard a teacher cuss before that and rewatching The Wonder Years now, confirms that. She was pretty cold. He nominated me for Who’s Who and paid for the hardbound book just so I could see my name in print. He played tennis with us on his days off and made us memorize the poetry of Robert Frost. He gave me my first paperback book of poetry by Ralph Waldo Emerson and told me to write in it so I would remember it. I still note the date inside the cover of every book I read, because reading is about remembering not to forget.
He treated his students with a rare dignity, we were all capable of greatness. It was our duty to be ourselves. We were each on a unique mission, he respected us. Years later he sent me a message just to tell me he was proud of me. I responded in thanks for his kindness with a pun about bowling. Looking back, I should have said thank you for actually seeing me and paying true attention to the person I was bound to be. Thank you for pointing out that my superpower was my vulnerability. Thank you for equipping me with the tools and knowledge necessary to always be learning. Thank you for your love of words and thank you, Mr. Bruni, for caring.