Her name is Lindsay, but the ones who know and love her don’t call her that. Most of us affectionately called her Trixie. This name became one of the most popular names our high school choir director and friend, Jerry Smith, would come up with for her over the years. The name suits her well too, because it seems like whatever life throws her, she is always able to brush things off. This became part of the lessons that we would unknowingly learn over time.
In order to understand the name, Trixie, and the lessons we learned, we must go back to fall of 2001. Trixie and I met a year or two before high school, though we were told by many that we went to preschool together. I’m glad we met when we did, because Trixie was already going to middle school in the same school where we would go to high school. It was helpful to know that, at the very least, we were going through the same things together.
And when Jerry came into our lives, we were invincible. At least he made us feel that way. At lunch, we talked about songs, family, TV shows he and Trixie watched, and so much more. He was also with us at pep rallies, homecoming games, and all other major school functions. From Jerry’s willingness stay in trouble by doing things like this, to the best time of the year, performance, Jerry taught us that the best way to deal with life was through music.
Trixie and I took Jerry Smith four times in our four years and learned about much more than music. The three of us never really got to spend that much time together outside of the classroom while we were in school, aside from school functions and lunch, without feeling like we were always being watched. But in the classroom, we created memories that no one can ever replace and I think Jerry’s main goal as the choir director was to make you feel like when you were in his classroom, and his presence, you were in a different world.
Most of my memories of him consist of being asked, “Where’s Trixie?” or, “Tell Trixie…” I didn’t mind though, seeing them happy made me happy. I wish I gotten the chance to create more memories with him, but Trixie did a good job making me feel like I was part of their memories, too.
The biggest thing Trixie and I have struggled with since Jerry’s death is not being able to share our life experiences with him anymore, so documenting things we would share with Jerry has an important part of our healing process. Happy moments, sad moments, big moments, small moments, we just needed a place to put them. We call these moments, just smile moments.
Those lessons would get us through good times and bad times, “Just Smile”, especially. This is why, when our special teacher and friend passed away suddenly in September of 2012, we decided to commemorate him and what he taught us through the creation of a t-shirt. Along with a moving Facebook status, written by our friend and fellow classmate, Sam. We also decided that part of our commemoration to him would be to document when we get together, or something memorable happens to us, on a Facebook page; both while wearing the shirt and not.
“Just Smile”, came to be more than a line in a song, or a quote on a t-shirt for us; it became the most important lesson that Jerry would teach us about life over a period of eleven years. This lesson has allowed us to prevent life from becoming so overwhelming. It has also allowed some of our classmates, who didn’t get to know him as well, to learn how he has impacted us. Maybe even realize how he impacted them, too.
We did all of the things best friends do. We would talk on the phone all the time, which drove our parents crazy. We had sleepovers and went school dances together. We talked about life and boys. We went to summer camp. But most of all, we wrote parody and mashup songs.
When we first started writing them, it was just a fun and challenging thing to do to pass the time. Very quickly, though, we learned that it was also a powerful tool. This was especially true for Trixie because the things life throws at her sometimes seem impossible to handle. With each song, we realized that we were able to express ourselves like never before. Some of our favorites include: Paint Me a Birmingham, Don’t Cry Daddy, I’ll Wait For You, and Just Fishin’. Of course there are more, but listing them all would take far too long. To this day, we write parody songs to match whatever is happening, because of him. Each one marks a time in our lives, happy or sad, keeping us connected to each other and to our time with Jerry.
Our journeys may not always be easy, Trixie’s especially, but the lessons we learned from him will carry us through anything. Big or small, Jerry impacted everyone he met, and for that, we are eternally grateful.