Thursday, September 17, 2009

People In My Life: Suzanne from Cameroon

Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been. - Mark Twain

I find other people's lives interesting. Maybe that is why I enjoy my job so much. Every eight weeks I get to meet 20-30 (well, double that now that I am teaching two classes) new people with lives very different than my own. Although I am their "teacher", I learn so much from each of them.

This quad Suzanne, a 65 year old woman, is in my "high beginning" class. Suzanne is her American name. She is from Cameroon and speaks French as well as many African languages. She was married when she was 16 years old, had nine children, lost two of them, and was widowed when she was only 40 years old. She has lived in the United States for the last six years with her son and his family.

Each evening that I enter my classroom, I find Suzanne has already arrived and is studying. She greets me with the most beautiful smile and when she shares an answer or a story in class her eyes light up. She reminds me of a teenager the way she giggles when she talks. She seems to love life. I feel like she is a magnet that pulls me in and makes me want to smile and feel good about life too. I have noticed that it isn't just me that has noticed these traits about Suzanne. Although she is a grandmother, she always has young men choosing to sit next to her. I think they see the same beauty in her that I do.

Besides her beautiful personality, her contagious smile, and her magically lit up eyes, Suzanne has skin that intrigues me. Her dark black skin is covered with various scars and several years of wrinkles. Sometimes I find myself wanting to reach out and touch her skin. I get this sense that by touching the scars and wrinkles I will gain access to all of her knowledge and stories. I find myself wanting to leave our classroom and go sit with a cup of tea for hours listening to story after story of her life.

I am lucky. I feel like I continuously have people entering my life that give me new things to think about and new things to admire. I know that Suzanne's smile, giggles, eyes and skin will always remain a sunny place in my mind. I thank her for that.