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On the remembrance scale: Just what's his name

There is perhaps nothing so humility — inducing and ego — deflating as being married to a teacher. Everyone remembers teachers, especially the good ones.

Writers? Well, they're somewhere near the bottom of the evolutionary scale with telemarketers and used car salesmen.

In a working lifetime, I've written thousands of articles, had my byline and photo plastered on any number of them; have attended every kind of meeting under the sun, from presidential events to garden clubs; and have met and worked with myriads of people.

But when we're traveling thither and yon and encounter people from years past, it's my wife, the teacher, they remember. I'm just the what's — his — name with Mrs. Brandon.

We were on vacation in Paris some years ago, strolling along the Champs Elysses, when out of the blue someone shrieked, “Mrs. Brandon! What're you doing here?”

It was one of her former high school students — one I, just coincidentally, had photographed and written about many times for our local newspaper.

But I might as well have been one of the anonymous Paris street sweepers while she and my wife reminisced about this, that, and the other.

In Washington, D.C., hurrying down a crowded street during lunch break after a morning of incredibly boring presentations by incredibly boring bureaucrats, I encountered a young lady from a town where we'd once lived. I hadn't seen her in years. Her eyes met mine, there was a glimmer of surprised recognition, followed by a beaming smile, and I kid you not, her first words were: “Where's Mrs. Brandon? Is she with you?”

On a recent trip, at 35,000 feet, the flight attendant was coming down the aisle with the drink cart. In conversation with a person a couple of rows ahead, we overheard her mention a town where we'd once lived. When she got to our row, it was déjà vu all over again: Somewhere over Kansas or Colorado — 35 years and a lot of changes later — student and teacher had a happy reunion.

I had made her photo any number of times when she was a majorette for the high school band; she had baby-sat our young son. When they came up for breath in their hashing of old days, she looked at me, smiled quizzically, and asked: “Didn't you do something or other with the newspaper?” Ouch!

In my early Farm Press career, I was dispatched to Seattle for a huge conference of agricultural researchers, 1,000 or more from around the nation.

One evening, everyone was ferried across Puget Sound to an Indian reservation for dinner and entertainment. Afterward, hundreds of people were milling about, waiting for the ferry to come and take us back across to the city.

Leaning against a wall, I scanned the crowd, looking for a familiar face. Ten or 15 feet away was a guy obviously scoping me. I looked away. When I looked back, he was still eyeing me. Well, I thought, it's probably somebody I've met at another conference somewhere.

He started walking toward me. When we were face to face, these were his words: “Say, didn't your wife once teach English at …?”

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