Monday, May 5, 2008

The Perfume

It's not that easy living alone. I've been trying to live by myself for more than a decade now but the sad fact is that I still find even the narrowest of spaces oblique and cold. I will always be a warrior, a wounded one.

A warrior of light
is capable of understanding the miracle of life,
fighting to the end for something
in which he believes and, then,
listening to the bells that the sea sets
ringing on the seabed.
(Manual of the Warrior of Light)


I always find reading a refuge. This is one of those pieces I will never forget and will forever relate with.

Forwarded mail. June, 2001


As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of
she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her
students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was
impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a
boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he
did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy
that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be

It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in
marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then
a big "F" at the top of his papers. At the school where Mrs. Thompson
taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put
Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in
a surprise.

Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready
laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners. He is a joy to be

His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well
liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a
terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle!"

His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on
him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn't show much interest
and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."

Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't
show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and he
sometimes sleeps in class."

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed
of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas
presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for
Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper
that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it
in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to
laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones
missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume. But she
stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the
bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her
wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long to say,
"Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to."
After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.

On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic.
Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular
attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come
alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the
end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the
class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the
Teddy became one of her "teacher's pets."

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her
that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then
wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was
still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things
had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and
would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He
assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher
he had ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time
he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go
a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and
favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer,
the letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter
that spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be
married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago
and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the
wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the

Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that
bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she
made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered!
his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.

They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs.
Thompson's ear, "Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me.
Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me
that I could make a difference."

Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said,
"Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that
I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."


Lydia said...

Dear Warrior,
I donated to your wonderful blog today; buy some fishes! It will come under my other name (Lydia is my middle name and I identify with it) so I wanted you to know this was a donation from me.

I, too, had received The Perfume in an email some years ago. I'm glad you reprinted it here because I loved being reminded of its powerful beauty.

Do you still have your cat to warm the lonely spaces? I hope so.

Anonymous said...


I'm a big fan of Paulo Coelho! You will love this! He's the first best-selling
author to be distributing for free his works on his blog:

Have a nice day!


blazing sunset said...

the article is alive...

dex said...

dear Lydia,

how thoughtful of you!You're the first one to donate here.I've sent you something through mail hope it will reach you.

I've entrusted my two adopted cats to my landlord back in my previous home. Wasn't able to bring them here. But there are many stray cats and kittens here in my new place. It's just a matter of choosing. . .and being ready :)

thank you for being with me here in my blog. thank you for your wisdom, prayers and encouragement


Fjordan Allego said...

ang ganda ng kwento sobra! kapupulutan talaga ng aral. no wonder hindi mo makakalimutan yung kwentong ito.

Lydia said...

Hmmm, something to look for in the mail - how intriguing. Paypal must have listed my address?

For you, moonlight is a glorious piece! It's wonderful that so much deep studying hasn't muted your creative genius.

It sounds as if you will find a special kitty to become a new friend. I hope your two cats are safe and well in their foster home.

Enjoy your weekend.

bagiuodweller said...

Yes, that story makes me smile. . .and it definitely affirms why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place. Thanks for the reminder.