Seeking Dana Smith by Barbara Steinberg
I have shared this story again and again, here it is one more time. This letter was originally published on February 26, 2010. My hopes for 2019, other then the usual: health, happiness, and world peace....would be an answer to this letter. Of course, I have passed another birthday and rounded the corner to 63 and the 45th anniversary of Dana's supportive words. Maybe 2019 will be the magic year when the answer comes.
Dear Mrs. Smith –
May I call you Dana? Now that I am nearly 63 years old it seems appropriate. I don’t know if you will remember me…though I believe you will. You were my English teacher (freshman and senior years [1970-1971 & 1973-1974]) at W. T. Woodson High School. This is not the first letter I have written you. I wrote to you after I graduated from high school and thanked you for coming into my life! Here I am again.
You and I bumped heads that first year, 1970. Diagramming sentences and all those English technicalities drove me crazy; I was so bored. You may have suffered some of the same boredom.
My senior year (1973-1974) with you included media/marketing and writing courses. What an eye-opener for me! Those experiences would eventually figure into my professional life in so many ways. In my senior yearbook you wrote, “I expect to be buying your books soon,” Good Luck, D. Smith. That was the most powerful and memorable thing anyone had ever said to me.
After graduating, I told you all of this in a letter.After moving to California, I stopped by to say ‘hello’ and let you know what was going on in my life. You told me that you and your husband (whom I never met) were moving to Kentucky. I believe you said he was a photographer and planned to open a studio. Again, this is what I think was said. I don’t remember if you said where in Kentucky or (specifically) when you were going.
I don’t recall if we spoke again, but I have thought of you often.
I have been looking for you for a long time. I stopped by and called WTW – the English department, the principal – no one responded. I contacted the teachers association. Each time I explained, but no one seemed interested. I have looked online.Searched through www.WhitePages.com, Google searches, and people-finder websites. Someone from my graduating class knows someone who is currently on staff in the English Department. They were going to do some asking on my behalf, but then I never heard anything more.
I posted the following on Facebook believing that this ‘six degrees of separation’ Mecca would find someone out there who recognized you. Or maybe even find you!
Why is it so important that I find you? Because I want to thank you…again! Thank you for seeing something in me when I was only 17-years-old. Something no one else had noticed or nurtured. My life took many paths, all of them leading to my life as a writer and editor.Though I have been writing my whole life, I wasn't professionally published until my mid 30s. For 16 years I was the director of publications for Visit California. Since 2006, I have been a freelance travel writer and marketing California as a travel destination -- passionate about the subject!
I have often talked about what you taught me about the power of marketing. And, ironically, one of the first places I visited in California was the Hearst Castle…all because you had us watch "Citizen Kane" our senior year in a media class you taught.That’s true! And from time-to-time, I take out my yearbook just to re-read your message.There are a couple of books I want to write, but finding the time is a major stumbling block.Your words of support may bring that to fruition someday.
I hope this letter reaches you! I want you to know that after 42 years I still remember and thank you from the bottom of my heart. In the meantime, others will know about the power of few well-placed words. Years later I still remember.
Love - Barbara
PS – Just before my senior year I visited a friend in the UK. Her mother, Joan, was a travel writer. When she explained this concept to me I said, “That’s a job?! I want that job.” I was just 17 years old and was just getting ready to begin my senior year in your class. The Universe and D. Smith saw the writing on the wall.