A couple of months into 8th grade, the English teacher, Mrs. Murphy, assigned an in-class writing exercise. We could write whatever we liked, but it had to be in some way an expression of a memory evoked by the smell of an orange. She explained that scent and memory are strongly linked, and oranges have a distinct and strong smell.
Well, I couldn’t think of a darned thing. I came up with exactly one orange-associated memory: Very recently I had shown my mother that I could peel a Clementine so that the rind came off in one piece. And, bonus, it looks like an elephant.
That … doesn’t look like an elephant to me, my mom said. And then I saw it, and I was pretty tragically and totally embarrassed.
Thus, Mrs. Murphy got a smart-alecky essay about how I really couldn’t think of anything and boy howdy do I hope my life is full of exciting adventures with oranges ever present in the background, just so I could have something worthy to submit should that particular writing prompt ever came up again.
Mrs. Murphy had no apparent problem with my approach. I think maybe she could give as good as she got, because I got an A- on the piece, which was returned to me with a single comment.
“Ever heard of a semicolon?”
Now, when I dig my nail into an orange peel, I have years of memories of Christmas stockings and snack breaks on hikes. Christmas and hiking are my main orange-consumption times. But I always, always, always think of Mrs. Murphy. I hope she knew I appreciated her. And I kind of wish I could tell her I eventually learned how to correctly operate a semicolon.