Only one of us dared to call her Miriam. Former justice minister David Libai, today a high-powered attorney, took the liberty of now calling her by her first name. The rest of us called her as we did then: Dr. Fischler.
Four of us arrived at an old-age home this week to meet our former biology and homeroom teacher, who at 92 is confined to a wheelchair. It was a gesture of honor to the woman who taught the youngest of us about DNA, shortly after it had been discovered.
There we were - three law and one political science graduates, three journalists and one attorney, graduates of three different classes in the '50s, '60s and '70s in Tel Aviv's Ironi Alef high school; four who failed the Fischler test. None of us had become a biologist or even a doctor, as we had dreamed back then, when we registered for the biological studies course.
Libai was in a hurry for a business meeting and came only to say hello. Moshe Negbi said that he had made his final decision to give up biology when Dr. Fishler dissected a carp. Moshe Ronen, who was then still Reinish, used to slip off at recess to the nearby Israel Television studios to watch the new miracle taking place there. And I, whose fate was sealed by a university registrar clerk who told me it was too late to register to medical studies.
Most of our lives are already behind us and she, the tiny old woman sitting opposite us, is whispering fragmented, hesitant memories, even better groomed than she was in those days, perhaps she had spruced up especially for this strange visit. This is the teacher from our memories.
Memories of rising when she entered the class; of dissecting a toad. Memories of how she was never our friend, only our teacher. We thought her a bit too rigid, Polish and old - she was younger than we are today - to make friends with. This week we also discovered that none of us still had the textbook, Analytical Flora of Israel, which we used to take on forgotten field hikes with her, to fields that no longer exist.
Nothing remains, neither the Analytical nor the fields. None of us can define a chrysanthemum. "Why do I remember you, of all people," she asked suddenly, after dozens of years of teaching and thousands of graduates. Doubt hung in the air: Did she really remember us?
The class' interim balance: The promising ones were a disappointment, the disappointing ones were a surprise. A close friend of mine committed suicide, so did our english teacher. One forgotten pupil became a scientist in the Ness Ziona Biological Institute. Another went to mine diamonds in Africa with Gorodish. One has taken early retirement and three became doctors - a gynecologist, a psychiatrist and a dentist - a quantum of solace for the biological studies course.
I look at our high-school class picture - the wind has carried almost all of them away. At least three fateful years together, first loves and cigarettes, a promise to go steady or at least of sharing secret memories forever - and almost nothing remains.
Where is Danny and what happened to Daniella? I also glance at the group picture with the biology teacher, the one taken this week. Four middle-aged men and one old woman, a gloomy expression on everyone's faces. Goodbye Dr. Fischler, so long, memories.
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