Wayne County Wanderings: Remembering Mrs. Reifler

Marie Reifler was my first grade teacher at the old Stourbridge School. She was a wonderful woman, born to the classroom and an absolute natural at working with little kids.

Her career in education spanned nearly five decades, beginning at Hancock and ending 46 years later in Honesdale.

I remember Mrs. Reifler as a typical farm girl: hard-working and no-nonsense; tough as nails on the outside, but with a heart of gold on the inside.

She was an outstanding teacher … smart, funny, kind and infinitely patient … undoubtedly the inspiration for many local educators who came after her.

Surprise Storm

Sadly, Mrs. Reifler passed away last summer at her home in Cherry Ridge.

I was reminded of her just this morning when I rolled out of bed and staggered downstairs. Callie was already up, prancing around in front of the door and asking to go out.

“OK buddy,” I said with a stretch and a yawn, wiping the sleep from my eyes. “Give me a second.”

My little beagle wasn't usually this keen on getting up first thing and I couldn't help but wonder what had her so energized today.

That's when I looked out the window.

Snow.

Snow everywhere!

The ground was covered and tree limbs were sagging with the weight of a storm that had evidently ambushed us in the middle of the night.

I looked down at Callie, her tail wagging wildly. She wanted desperately to play, so I bundled up, took a deep breath and out we went.

In Like a Lion

As we made our way through the backyard and down toward the Lollipop Pond, I soaked in the beauty surrounding us.

The temperature was already pushing 40 and the snowflakes that still drifted down were big and wet, so I knew it wasn't destined to last long. In all likelihood, I wouldn't see a similar scene again until November.

Callie did her business behind a barren bush and then began frolicking in the snow. While she played, I snapped a few photos with my phone and took a stroll down Memory Lane.

Mrs. Reifler's classroom was a wonder to first graders like me. It was meticulously organized and bursting with all kinds of fascinating things … one of which was a bulletin board that she obviously spent a great deal of time working and re-working throughout the school year.

For some reason, one of those bulletin boards in particular has stuck in my memory all these years. Its theme was “weather” and featured a collage of pictures dealing with the four seasons.

The one that captured my imagination was a fanciful rendering of a big old storm cloud. This cloud had a lion's face, complete with a fluffy mane. His cheeks were puffed out, his eyes squinted. His paws were cupped on either side of his mouth and as he blew fiercely on a little town far down below.

I don't know if Mrs. Reifler made this herself or if she had an art teacher helping her, but this cloud was very vivid and “lifelike” … so much so that I stood wide-eyed before it every morning, transfixed.

I wondered why the cloud looked so angry.

I wondered what sort of people lived in that town.

I wondered if there were little boys like me. Were they walking to school, heads bent and baseball caps pulled down in the face of such a roaring wind?

Did they occasionally glance up at the sky and see the “lion” looking angrily down on them?

Were they scared?

Out Like a Lamb

The saving grace of this bulletin board display (at least to the hyper-active imagination of first grade Kevin) was the presence of a lamb in the upper corner.

This lamb was pure white and beautifully drawn. It had the calmest look on its face as it approached the “lion-cloud” from behind.

It's a scene I puzzled over for a long time before finally working up the courage to ask what it all meant. I remember Mrs. Reifler bending down next to me, one hand on my shoulder and the other pointing at the display.

“It means that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb,” she said, smiling at me as the light went on over my head.

I knew that phrase! I'd heard my Nana say it not long before. Suddenly, it all made sense! I recall heading home that afternoon feeling just a little bit smarter than I'd been before.

The next day, I stood in front of the bulletin board as usual. This time, though, my perspective had changed. I pictured the little boys of the town smiling as they held their caps in place and saw the lamb chasing the lion away.

It might be windy and nasty today, but things were always changing. The lion was in charge today, but pretty soon the lamb would be here and all would be calm again.

Thank you, Mrs. Reifler!

Moving On

By the time my reverie ended, Callie was done playing and ready to go back inside.

She stood there looking up at me, a little bit of snow still perched on her snout and tail wagging again.

I took one more look around, burning the beautiful landscape into my brain for safe keeping.

Change was definitely in the air. March had come in as a lion, but I could sense the presence of that lamb just off-stage. He'd be here soon, accompanied by warm spring zephyrs, gentle rains and a thousand happy purple crocuses.

I smiled as we headed back up the hill. Breakfast awaited, then a hot shower and another day filled with newsroom adventures.

The older I get, the more I appreciate mornings like this one … quiet, unrushed mornings with the luxury of a little bit of time to think.

It gives me a chance to keep things in perspective, to recall what's important and what isn't … time to remember wonderful people like Marie Reifler.