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Ms. Limas' Stroke

On the first day of my fifth grade, I was standing at the corner, carefully shaving my three-inch Mongol pencil when she entered the room. She, who was wearing glasses then, walked anxiously inside and dropped her things on the desk. 

“Good morning,” she said in a voice I knew the boys at the back could not hear. When the noise did not subside, she reached for the chalk and started writing on the board, hard and fast, every motion of her hand a swift stroke, like a woodpecker on a tree. She did this until she was through writing her name and had our attention. 

“My name is Maria Felicia Limas and I will be your adviser for this school year,” she said as her veins showed on her bony neck, like every word is a struggle. 

While she spoke, her hands swung loosely in midair, swinging back and forth. But I wasn't listening, I was echoing her name a thousand times until it became a second nature to my mind.


It was in the middle of October when she taught us how to use the microscope. 

She prepared us a lecture in manila paper which, I saw, was smudged by the writings on the other side. Her words an inch long, seemingly indecipherable. 

She brought an actual microscope from a dusty box, and made us fall in line, so that we could all look at it. One by one, each has ten seconds tops. 

She did not dismiss us until everyone got their chance. That day, I came home late.


One recess, when the school year is almost through, I saw Ms. Limas at the court, sitting on one of the benches, eating her sandwich while watching the first graders play tag. 

And I saw her like I’ve never seen her in class. Her right foot was tapping the cemented floor, and every time a kid would get caught, I saw her foot stopped for a second or two and then it will return to its rhythm. Like a conductor in the orchestra, every stroke in tune with the music. 

And I saw just before she leaves, when a kid had caught the last tag, the one who had never been tagged yet; I saw her smile and giggle at the same time. 

I didn’t hear it; I was yards away. But I knew it was a soft, high-pitched sound, the way only kids can do.

Photo Credit:  Dead Poets Society