Looking Back: Miss Norsworthy

This past Sunday, I posted about one of my most influential high school teachers, Mr. Keith Matney. Today I want to tell you about a very different teacher and the very different reasons I remember her so fondly.

Miss Norsworthy was short. At least I remember her to be. Probably far under five feet. And she was an older lady. Of course, in those days, anyone over thirty was ancient, but Miss Norsworthy was probably at least in her fifties.

She was my Spanish teacher for two of the three years I studied Spanish in high school, and she always wore a flower in her hair in what I assumed to be a Spanish kind of way. Of course, popular  opinion was that she was bald in that spot and just trying to cover it up. I doubt that anyone actually believed that, however.

I learned a lot of Spanish from her, Spanish I wish I could recall better now. But thanks to her good grounding, I wasn’t totally cut off from comprehending the people I met on last year’s mission trip to Nicaragua. The biggest problem is that native Spanish speakers tend to talk faster than I can listen and comprehend. Ah, well. I need to converse with people whose Spanish is tinged with a good old Southern drawl.

Or maybe not. I believe one of the beauties of Spanish is that it’s far too easy for one sentence to flow into the next.

Oh, okay. You’re right. Whatever happened to talking about Miss Norsworthy?

I remember two things about her. Things I’ll never forget. The first was the day she was chasing a nuisance housefly around the classroom and finally cornered it on Tommy Coggins’ face. Talk about embarrassing…

The other thing is far more serious. I had a last period study hall and was permitted to leave. Although I’d gone outside, I wasn’t waiting for a city bus the way I normally would’ve done. After a few minutes, Miss Norsworthy came outside and asked me if I wanted to listen to her car radio with her.

Weird! But she was too old and too prim and proper to have been up to no good. She seemed to be in an especially serious mood, and I couldn’t help wondering what was up.

The news was on. But not a regularly scheduled news report, but something that seemed to be happening. After a few minutes I learned that President Kennedy had been shot. Although I’d never been a fan of his, that was a horrible thing to hear about. Like so many other Americans, we remained glued to that radio as long as we could.

Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t have to be by myself on hearing of President Kennedy’s assassination. And I will always value that precious little lady who invited me to share those moments of shock and grief with her.

What about you? Are you old enough to remember that fateful day? Do you have any particular memories you could share in a comment?


I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.

Best regards,

Spanish That Wasn’t Quite Adequate

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I took three years of Spanish in high school. Early in my studies, I started feeling pretty confident. So much so that I tried showing off to the slightly older (and very attractive) sister of my best friend.

Doggone! How was I supposed  to know that their father had been stationed in Puerto Rico long enough for her to know Spanish better than I ever would?

I learned two things from that experience. Don’t show off about my Spanish, and don’t show off—period. Maybe that’s why I don’t compare myself to other guitar players. If someone tells me I’m good, I’ll thank them graciously, but I know better than to let it go to my head.

But we weren’t talking about my guitar playing.

When I entered junior college, they told me I needed one year of a foreign language. They didn’t offer a second year Spanish course, and they weren’t about to let somebody who’d studied it three years in high school meet the requirements with the first year course.

So, out of necessity, I started taking first year French. I hated it, and I could easily see it ruining my 3+ GPA.

But one of my instructors, Mr. Kirkconnell, befriended me and arranged to teach a second year class with me as his only student. Now THAT was something else, even if he did miss a lot of classes.

Flash forward forty years or so. I was writing Found in Translation and needed to use some authentic Spanish. With a little help from the Internet, I was able to do what I needed to do.

Flash forward to a month ago, when I first learned about my church’s upcoming mission trip to Nicaragua. Hmm. Perfect time to brush up on my Spanish, huh?

I bought a grammar refresher book. From going through just the first fifty pages, I discovered how much I hadn’t learned in high school, much less forgotten. So I abandoned that book in favor of a Spanish-English dictionary and a little Dummies book of useful Spanish phrases.

I wasn’t set, but I was as set as I’d ever be.

We arrived in Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua. The signs were pretty easy to figure out—for the greater part.

But spoken Spanish? Forget it! Even if I didn’t Have a hearing problem, I couldn’t listen fast enough to follow it. So I got real good at saying, “Lo siento” (“I’m sorry”), “No comprendo” (“I don’t understand”), and “Donde es el bano?” (“Where’s the bathroom?”). I didn’t bother with “No tan rapido, por favor” (“Not so fast, please”) because I knew it wouldn’t help.

I’ve concluded that part of the problem is the same thing that makes Spanish such a beautiful language to listen to (if one doesn’t need to know what’s being said): The words basically roll together in such a way that somebody like me can’t easily separate  them into individual words.

I’m glad I brushed up on my Spanish, though. But if I get to go to Nicaragua again, I hope I’ll at least have a larger vocabulary. Maybe I’ll get a little further than “Hola” (“Hello” or “Hi”), even if I still can’t understand what the person I’m trying to talk to says back.

What’s your experience with a foreign language? Or are you still working on English?


Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to the top right of this page where it says, “Follow Blog via Email.”

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I revise and repost a previous post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Best regards,