Smiling since fifth grade

Published 12:35 am Saturday, May 23, 2015

Most everyone knows the little jingle, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

My guess is someone who was being bullied devised this little catch phrase, and in an attempt to stop the verbal abuse decided to let the perpetrator think his or her name-calling was just going in one ear and out the other.

Unfortunately, words do matter, and sometimes they can be as powerful as a physical blow.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

However, the other side of the coin is that words can also have an influential effect if used positively.

When I was a student at Jett Elementary School here in Vicksburg, I had a fifth grade teacher by the name of Mrs. Rickles.

I do not remember everything about her class, but I do remember she was pretty, and she was nice to me.

Also, that same year, it had become a trend for us fifth-grade girls to have autograph books. An autograph book is a bound book in which anyone, hopefully famous people, would sign their name.

Anyway, most of my girlfriends owned one of these autograph books, and since there were not any movie stars roaming the streets of Vicksburg, we had to rely on our friends and families to fill the pages.

A few of my clever friends also would add in a message with their signature like, “Roses are red, lilies are white, here is my autograph to prove I can write.”

The boys who signed my autograph book typically would write their names and then refer to their perceived athletic abilities and aspirations.

“Babe Ruth Jr.,” “the great hero,” “gram-slam kid” and “home-run hitter” were just a few.

Of course, my parents and grandparents wrote lovely messages about how much they loved me and how proud they were of me, which was nice to read. Let’s face it, I totally expected this of family members, but there is one message in my little autograph book that I did not expect. It was from Mrs. Rickles.

She wrote:

“Dear Terri,

You are a very cute and sweet girl, and I have enjoyed teaching you. I will be expecting to hear of great things from you!  Keep up the good work, and God Bless.”

Then she signed her name, but added a P.S.

“Keep smiling, it’s one of the things I’ll remember most about you.”

Mrs. Rickles’ initial message was expected from a teacher. It was her additional words I have never forgotten.

My teacher said she would remember “my smile” instilling in me a confidence every time I grin.

School is out for the summer, and we have acknowledged the students who have graduated from high school. My guess is most of these kids have reached their goal due in part to teachers like my Mrs. Rickles, teachers who have not only educated them but who have also encouraged and imparted a since of self-assurance that hopefully will remain with them for a long time like it did for me.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

email author More by Terri Cowart