This evening a friend from high school, whom I haven’t talked to in years but with whom I had recently reconnected via Facebook sent me the news that Mrs. Price, after a long struggle with cancer died six days ago (July 17th 2009).
I spent much of the next hour crying.
I may change most of my summer plans to fly back to Illinois in a few weeks for the memorial service.
The last time I had seen Mrs Price was many, many years ago, yet I think about her nearly every day. She was never my teacher, but more than anyone else in high school and truly even in college Mrs Price was among the most important people in my life and one of the folks with the most lasting, positive influence.
I realized this evening that I have very few people for whom I am trying to do anything – my stuggles to achieve have, for the most part, been very self motivated. I’m sure there is an element of making my parents proud, but only an element, mostly I strive to make myself proud, to do what I know I am capable of doing – in fact to show myself I can do even more than that.
But as I mourned this evening I realized that Mrs Price, more than almost anyone was someone for whom I wanted to achieve, someone whom someday when my novel was published or when I had achieved some other goal I could have dedicated the book to her, sent her a copy for herself (and sent one to the then current Oak Park & River Forest High School Science Fiction and Fantasy Club – more on that in a moment)
Mrs Price taught at my high school, OPRFHS, for many, many years, retiring only a few years ago, long after I had graduated. For much of that time she was the academic advisor to the OPRFHS Science Fiction & Fantasy Club, a long running club at my high school which had formed in the 1970’s and ocntinues to this day. When i was there it was the club for the misfits and geeks, the nerds of the school. But not just those of us who were also on the Math & Science Teams (seriously competive math) or as I was the Chess Team (captain for 3 & 1/2 years) and while there was also a lot of overlap not everyone in the club was also a member of the high school games club (a tradition which appears to also still be ongoing to this day – though now the games club appears to have morphed into an anime & games club).
But we were united in our weirdness, in our love of all forms of science fiction (and fantasy). We showed movies about once a month, met every Friday, and did a wide and varied range of things. We published what would now be described as a zine, we played many games, we discussed current movies. We diagramed the time flows of the Back to the Future movies (this was the late 80’s after all) and most of us socialized (as much as any of us socialized in high school) with each other at lunch & outside of school.
And throughout it all Mrs Price was a wonder. A supportive presence who gave us room to be ourselves, who observed how we changed over the years, and who gave me better advice than any formal guidance councilors or advisors ever did. While Mrs Price rarely taught any members of the club (she tought mostly students in the more remedial tracks – most though not all of the club were honors/AP tracked students) she was always available to us when we needed her. And she supported us in even the most crazy of endevorers.
In my sophmore year the club held a one day, mostly games convention at the high school. A few non-club members showed up but mostly it wasn’t all that successful.
But the next year we held a much more ambitious convention also at the high school but over the weekend. We invited a number of local, real science fiction authors, we invited local stores to set up booths and sell, we invited local restaurants to provide food, we had a gaming area, multiple rooms of talks, film & tv screenings. In short, we had a very real, if small, science fiction convention.
A convention we the bunch of us who started it started having mostly never been to a “real” science fiction convention before.
It was a big success. The funds we raised paid for the club for the next year+ and enabled us to hold the convention again the next year. This past year OPCon XIX was held (19!) and next year will likely be the 20th. Impressive by any account. Out of those first conventions which I helped run, I had my first real experiences getting to know “real” authors. I drove Robert Shea to the convention, sat with him around his kitchen table and got to know his family. As a result of his speaking at OPCon he was invited to speak at WorldCon 1991 in Chicago (the convention chairs lived in Oak Park and had stopped by our little convention to see it) and would lated be invited as the Guest of Honor for some other local Chicago area science fiction conventions.
But this is not about me or OPCON but about Mrs Price.
She was a loving and wonderful woman and one of the most powerful influences in my life. Her acceptance of the weird & the strange, of misfits and socially inept people (such as myself in high school) and through love & patience her ability to help us each blossom and prosper will live on inside of me.
Every year the club screened The Princess Bride, to the point where we all could quote nearly every line, I think I will watch the movie again this weekend in her honor.
Rest in Peace Mrs Price. Rest in Peace.
You will be missed.