Mrs. Coughlin's Braids


My family moved when I was in second grade. Mom told me my new school was "private" and "parochial". Having watched Shirley Temple's "Little Princess" a few dozen times, immediately I imagined a boarding school of brick, uniforms and lots of girls. Turned out, St. Joe's wasn't that. It was better. Small. Coed. Uniform-free. Best of all, the strict teacher I had envisioned turned out to be the absolute opposite. 

Mrs. Coughlin looked like an Indian princess. She wore her dark hair in long braids that rested over the shoulder of her corduroy jumpers. Her dark eyes sparkled when she smiled. She taught us Spanish and square dancing and didn't mind at all if I sharpened my chubby pencil to a nub. She played guitar for us. 

I loved her. I really did. 

I think she moved after that year. Someone else became the second grade teacher, but only Mrs. Coughlin could ever be mine. 

All these years later, when I put my hair up in braids I think of her and how safe her classroom felt, even for the new girl.

-Angela Newport