My guidance counselor

I wasn’t expecting to post another tribute so soon, but a few days ago I learned my HS guidance counselor has passed away at age 63.

Natalie did so much for me when I was at Ben Davis HS and beyond. She advocated for me when I had schedule issues (which was basically every semester) and when I needed to miss school events to interview for a scholarship. She pushed me to apply to DePauw when I didn’t think I should apply to any expensive schools. I got in, received several scholarships, and got a great education. My sister Kelly followed me to DePauw too. She helped both of us get several jobs. When I was in college, she had us dog-sit and take care of her house, and trusted us to drive her daughters to their summer activities. That was a big deal; she told us she trusted very few people for jobs like that.

While staying at her house, I leafed through her high school yearbooks and learned that she had protested the Vietnam War. When I was walking her little dog Rudy on the greenbelt in Chapel Glen one evening, I saw a coyote scurrying by the creek, clearly interested in him. I grabbed Rudy and prepared to fight off a predator. I walked away quickly and the coyote didn’t follow, thankfully. As I told people later, “I’d rather fight a coyote with my bare hands than face Mrs. Mattingly after telling her that her dog got eaten!” If you ever saw her when she was displeased, you understand. 😀

We didn’t leave her house much if we weren’t going to work. She would call us every day on the house phone. If we didn’t answer, she would call our cell phones and ask why we weren’t at the house. We’d be at work, which she understood we would have to do, but other than that she wanted her dogs to have our company and care. She also had us sit down with her daughters once, before they went into junior high, and said to them, “Okay, Kati and Kelly were very successful in school. They were also always very nice and respectful to me, unlike some kids. I’m going to have them tell you how they got through school and you can ask them questions. They can tell you how to deal with stress, mean girls, tough teachers, homework, anything.” I don’t think Kelly and I even knew in advance that she’d be putting us on the spot! It was funny, but we were flattered that she thought we had wisdom to share, and happy to share some advice to her sweet girls.

Two years ago, she moved a block away from my house in Herron-Morton. When I was looking for furniture before a move, she offered me her patio table, which is now sitting on my back porch.

I always appreciated her matter-of-fact demeanor. She had a way of drawing out whatever was on my mind, even if I’d just gone to her office for a signature on a college application. She never had the overhead light on in her office. It was lit with warm table lamps. There was a cozy chair with a pillow; the pillow had a cow on its back, legs in the air, with “Really, I’m fine” written in shaky handwriting. Recovering from cancer herself, she was acutely aware of how it impacted a child’s life (my mother had cancer when I was in 6th grade) and even asked me questions about my experience, gauging how that information might translate for her daughters. She was smart, funny, fierce, and yet sweet. I wish her family wasn’t facing her loss. I was so fortunate to have had her as my advocate and mentor. She touched so many students’ lives – her impact will remain on earth far into the future.

(I originally posted this on Facebook.)

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