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Submitted by sgrainger on

When I was in Grade 9, I wrote my first and last poem. It was called Flowers.

If I think back to my younger self, the point of my poem was to emphasize that a bouquet of flowers could mean entirely different things depending upon the circumstances.

In the second stanza, my 15-year old self used the example of flowers as a celebration of achievement (for example, gifting flowers to your daughter after a successful dance competition). In the third stanza, flowers were laid beside a gravestone to symbolize grief after a funeral.

At the time, flowers, in my mind, could represent both happiness and sadness – it just depended on the circumstances. And, here was the “deep” subtext of my poem: life was also like flowers. Life could be happy or sad; it just depended on how you looked at life. (The concept of flowers as a singular expression of love, regardless of the circumstances, had not occurred to me yet.)

Okay. So not so “deep,” but it was personal. And it rhymed.

I remember waiting outside my English class a few days after I submitted my poem. As the previous class exited my classroom, an older and much taller student stopped in front of me. He looked down at me and said, “Flowers, by Stuart Grainger.”

I was stunned. Shocked. Humiliated. How did he know?

As I entered my classroom, it was obvious my teacher at the time liked my poem. So much so, that he had printed it on a large poster board and plastered it on the wall over his desk. My poem, in enlarged lettering, was on full display, replete with graveyard images and gold-medal winning athletes holding bouquets of flowers over top of their heads in celebration. At the top was printed “FLOWERS” and at the bottom, “by Stuart Grainger.”

I have held to my vow that I would never write another poem in my life. And here I am, over 40 years later, still thinking and writing about it. I clearly need to move on! However, my most recent reflections have centered upon the teacher’s motives for posting my poem.

I believe he had the best of intentions. I also believe that he was pleasantly surprised that his underperforming, non-participative, sports-focused English student was capable of generating such a thing. So, he thought he was doing the right thing. But, at the time, I resented him for it. I believed it to be a betrayal. A betrayal of the covenant between a student and his teacher; I thought that my poem was a personal and private submission, and not for public display.

Reflecting on it today, I have considered the lessons learned in this situation that I have tried to carry through life with me

I do believe that my English teacher believed he was doing the right thing. However, the posting of my poem shouldn’t have been a surprise to me; at the very least, I should have been aware of the intended posting of MY poem, prior to it being done.

So, the two life lessons: 1) presume good intentions, and 2) work to limit surprises.

Sometimes I still need reminding of these two important life lessons.

Oh, and one last thought: I should have written more poems.