Today is a crisp, fall day and the sun is shining as only it can in late October. The sky is blue enough to rival a first warm day in March. I am running to catch the train so I’m only vaguely aware of the crunching leaves that swirl around my feet. It’s Friday—the day we are launching Teacher Peach’s FALLIDAYS SALE. I need to get to work. There is so much to do—so much I want to do. I make the train, just barely, and settle into my seat for the hopefully productive ride.
When I power up my computer, I see it: today’s date. I smile and slow down. Way down. It’s October 21st. Of course it is crisp and sunny out. He wouldn’t have had it any other way. The “he” is my grandfather and though he has been gone for almost 20 years, today is his birthday. October 21st was always a Red-Letter Day for our family. With a quick calculation I realize that Grampa (technically spelled wrong, but right for us) would have been 114 years old today. By his definition though, the moment he’d have turned 114, he’d be “going on 115.” Grampa Irving focused forward, no looking back for him.
We always stopped everything to celebrate his birthday. We’d plan for months, flying in for the weekend, everyone present and accounted for at his annual birthday dinner. He’d splurge and in a familiar stage whisper would say, “I’m breaking my diet tonight, Honey Darling. My Pal and I are both going to get the veal parmagiAHHNa.” As his only granddaughter, I was always known as Honey Darling. My brother, of course, was his “Pal.”
Grampa was engaged in everything we did—and it didn’t stop there. He paid close attention to the world around him, too. Were he alive today, he’d have been flipping between this week’s debate and the various baseball games, eager to see them all—with a definite point of view on each. (Provided, of course, he could have worked the remote; handy he was not.)
He also never drove a car, never flew in an airplane, and walked just about everywhere. His attitude about life kept him young, as they say. One bitterly cold day, I was walking home from high school, passing the main street near where he and my grandmother lived. There he was, walking with his cane, a fresh loaf of bread under his other arm. “Grampa, what are you doing out in this weather? It’s 20 below zero.” “Honey Darling, the sun is out, it isn’t snowing, and there’s no wind. It’s a beautiful day for a short walk.” And with him by my side as I steered him back toward their apartment, it certainly was.
He’d have completely loved Teacher Peach and all we stand for. My grandfather had enormous respect for education, educators, and the freedom to spend time learning, all traits he passed down on a regular basis. No matter how insignificant the school event, Grampa always attended, taking the 61C bus to get there and treating us to a rare bus ride home. He thought, and rightly so, that having the chance to receive an education was the highest form of privilege—a gift never to be wasted. You had to show up in all ways.
In 1919, Grampa was headed to college, a first for his family. He had been accepted to THE Wharton School of Business. (He always emphasized the word THE; as a result, we did too.) He never got to THE Wharton. His father died suddenly and he needed to run the family’s chicken and egg store. This explains why he taught us to value our education; he lost his chance—and his father—in one swift move. His eyes would sparkle wistfully when he retold the story, always ending with a strong reminder to treasure each chance to learn and to look for learning everywhere.
Grampa had a head for numbers and showed great interest in my first business, a publishing consulting company. We’d speak every Wednesday and Sunday night at precisely 11:02, when he was sure the long-distance rates had officially and dramatically dropped. When the 11:00 news would come on TV, he’d pick up the phone to dial the time. (Yes, it was a rotary phone.) Once convinced the phone company would agree that lower rates prevailed, he’d dial my number.
He knew I sold something, though he wasn’t sure exactly what it was. In those days, I sold creative services to publishers. It is only today that I sell easier-to-understand tangible products, but specifics never concerned him. A sale was a sale. In every call:
- He’d ask me what I had for dinner and tell me what he had for dinner. “They have me watching my salt, so all I had for dinner was a couple of hot dogs and a few pickles.” “Grampa! You’re not supposed to eat that!” “Don’t worry, Honey Darling. I didn’t put salt on any of it.” (Living to 94, he was right to tell me not to worry.)
- He’d review the plan for our next call. Though it was always the same days and time, we’d discuss it every time.
- Lastly, and most importantly, he’d always ask, “So, now it’s just Grampa asking, Honey Darling, and I don’t want to pry, but—did you get the order?” No matter what was going on and how major the pressures seemed, in that one question, he’d distill down everything to its simplest and most accurate state. Regardless of specifics about the complexity and creativity in our work, none of that mattered—unless or until we got the order.
This truth continues at Teacher Peach—today and every day. No matter how much we respect and support teachers, no matter how many great discounts we provide, and no matter how much people like the intent of the products, we “have to get the orders” to continue to make the differences that mean so much. It is through the orders that we’re able to donate 10% of the profits to Teacher Peach Seeds, our nonprofit fund. (Visit teacherpeachseeds.org to learn more.) Teacher Peach Seeds funds grants for teacher-driven projects designed to GROW student confidence—and that is our true passion.
As I write this post, I realize all over again how much of my passion for education, teachers, and GROWing student confidence came from Grampa Irving. It’s been an ingrained part of me for as long as I remember. He was right about the priorities of any business. Reflecting confirms yet again that Teacher Peach is on the right track with its nonprofit fund. GROWing student confidence DOES matter to kids, teachers, and I genuinely believe to all of Teacher Peach’s customers. Spending hard-earned money to buy teacher gifts that teachers will love has much more meaning when giving GREAT GIFTS WILL ALSO DO GOOD. Grampa would have definitely understood this concept. “Always do the right things, right, Honey Darling. You know. I know you do.” I do.
In keeping with tradition and out of respect to one of my own dearest teachers, today’s post is ALL about Grampa Irving.
Happy Birthday, Grampa.
P.S. And don’t worry. We’re getting the orders—so we’re helping the teachers and their kids.
Share the first name and an antidote about one of your “greatest family teachers” and be entered to win a 3-month subscription to A Note from the Teacher, an amazing subscription box, just for teachers—of all kinds! Simply post your comment below to enter.