I remember

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“Sometimes,” I’m reading aloud, “Bertie’s dog would lick his face . . . So Bertie would lick him back.”

“But Bertie’s gran would shout: ‘No, Bertie! That’s dirty, Bertie!’”

As a professor in this faculty, I’m leading a guest workshop on the subject of early literacy, for a Faculty Associate’s class of pre-service teachers. 

I’m halfway through a dramatic reading aloud of the naughty British children’s picture book, Dirty Bertie—whose shocking habits range from nose-picking, to eating sweets off the ground, to weeing on the flower beds, just like the cat.

“No, Bertie! That’s dirty, Bertie!” the class choruses the refrain, as I read out each of Dirty Bertie’s misdemeanours and the predictable responses of his mom, dad, big sister, gran, and everyone else.

Until I’m suddenly interrupted, mid-sentence, by a cry from the back: 

“I (with the emphasis on ‘I’) remember you! I remember you...” he repeats. The voice sounds shocked. Outraged. Accusing. 

The class looks around at the young man who called out. My blood runs cold. What on earth . . . ? This total stranger to me—we’ve been together barely an hour—remembers me, he claims? A case of mistaken identity?

Worse, has the young man actually encountered me in some context in which I comported myself (like Bertie in the picture book I’m reading) in less than seemly manner? A traffic altercation? A dispute? Littering?

“Yes, I remember (with the emphasis on ‘remember’) you,” the young man repeats his cry ... more quietly, more reflectively.

We’re holding our collective breath.

“I remember ... you came to our class, at Bayview ... I was in grade three or four ... you read aloud to us, as a visiting author ... I laughed so hard I was sick. I think I had to leave the room. It was such a ... such a hysterical time. I felt so ... so light ... free.”

A young man remembers and relives something he experienced as a child. And as he presences a long-forgotten memory, he makes more meaning of it, learns from it. As do his audience, including me.

Marah and Meguido Zola in C-Lot at SFU

This is what this anthology is about—remembering, celebrating, memorializing, for our 50th anniversary, our jubilee.

Each one of us who contributes to this collective work (as, too, those who thought about it but didn’t quite get to submitting) took time to remember, search out, and set down a truth of their lives. And at the heart of what we learn from it all, perhaps, is that we have survived, prevailed, thrived. This will affirms us. Challenge and inspire us. Renew our hope for the future, “sparkling,” in the words of Francis Bacon, “like a star in our hand — and melting like a snowflake.”

May it be so.

Meguido Zola
Professor, Emeriti