Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Standing Still

  Out walking my dog and eager to get our house and throw on my p.j.s (please don't interfere with my nightly routine) a young, fit runner came by with obligatory earbuds. 
"Oh, Hi!," she gushed warmly, as she spun around. She shot me a smile that stopped me in my tracks.  It was the smile of recognition but the sad thing was it was only on her end. 
 "Hi, who are you?" I blurted unfiltered.
    Immediately, her smile grew broader and my tiny, little third grader, Mackenna came into full view for me.  Except Mackenna was longer tiny, nor a third grader.  She had the body of a gymnast and she was a beauty. 
"Mackenna!" I exclaimed in recognition and hugged her. 
"So good to see you," I quickly recovered.
    And I meant it.  She waved again, still smiling as she turned on her heel, and took off.  I stood frozen, and in awe of the love and warmth she left her wake.  I was conscious of how much this sweet girl had changed and grown.  Memories of her that year flooded me in waves for a few seconds. For a brief moment I could easily picture sweet, capable MacKenna.  She had been able to recognize me easily (even from behind) yet it taken me quite longer to remember her.


    There's something we do in our culture, and it's appalling.  We value youth so much that we tend to disregard, or see less merit in people who are older. I couldn't tell you what the cut off point is. I don't even know if there is one?   Is it going on everywhere?  I can't answer that. I couldn't begin to speak about other professions but it's definitely going on in mine.  Somewhere down the line I stopped being a meaningful, vibrant part of my staff.  I stopped being the midway for my principal for advice, innovative methodology,  and an overall source of all things good ( progressive pedagogy, best practices).  Now, don't get me wrong.  I am not a pariah.  I'm just up on a  random shelf somewhere.  I just somehow began to have less value as compared to my peers.
     Luckily, for me I AM older, and I don't get my own value, or validation from my boss, or my colleagues.  I get it from my kids' faces, or even their thoughts and feelings.  Nevertheless, it is sad.  Although all the older teachers bring different things to the table- what we DO share in common is that what we bring is of merit.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sweet Escape

   I am LUCKY enough to have a mountain getaway.  Better than any drug, any drink, or even a fine vintage (and "Yes" I really DID just say that) my sneak-away place brings me inner peace like no other physical thing in my life.  The smell of the rustling pines, the warmth of sun and the spill of blue blanketing those pine covered mountains just brings time to a stand still.  That view- that deck- just stops me dead in my tracks- and almost commands me, "Drink Me In!"
     And so I do.  And 

just for that weekend life slows down, and I check out.  Everything is done (if done at all)  on mountain time. Pajamas?  Bit your tongue!  Pajamas are every day wear in the mountains.  Sometimes,  when I wake up I notice the stars peeking through the window.  "Hello Big Dipper," I whisper.  And suddenly, the familiar irritation of waking up in the middle of night fades away, as I lay still, and look at the stars before I drift off.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Change of Heart

I headed off to SDSU to take the world by a storm. With a series of parts under my belt ( supporting and major) I was sure I would be a working actor in either LA or NY.
     Cut to four years later in a group of at least 1000 who all thought the same thing, but had more confidence, seemed to have “ it,” or who knows- were better than me?
   Yeah, my hopes and dreams got mutilated and pulverized pretty damn quick. It was a painful time.
   Towards the end of my senior year I began to get involved in children’s theatre. We toured local elementary schools and had a “ Q&A” after each performance. I don’t know when it exactly happened but I began to enjoy and even look forward to their crazy questions and wonderings. Somehow, I just soaked up the children’s “ holy curiosity.”
   That’s how I went into teaching and I have never regretted it. Their purity, energy and innocence  gets me through life. It is beautiful. I almost feed off it. And my theatre background comes into use daily. In the spring we start adding drama/improvs to our days on Fridays.
   That’s not to say there isn’t drama every day. . . ( wink wink)

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The First One

    Everything looked better from my grandparents brick porch.  The green velvet grass, the spicy smell of the boxwood and the swooping curves of the Elm trees.  Everything looked hopeful from there.  I would sit on the warm bricks, and the skin of my legs would get imprinted w/all the rivulets and crannies.   I could still hear there laughter, and the clinking of their tall glass Tab bottles. but I was a million miles away.  I couldn't quite hear the words they were spelling, but I knew they were engrossed in their nightly Scrabble.
    I would sit w/my head in my hands, waiting. I could sit forever waiting for dusk and anticipation the very first firefly.   There!  There it is . Was that one? Was it my imagination?  I know I saw a red spark.  I thought I did?  The first one is the best.  Is there more? Is it time?  Yes! The second one confirms it.  Then suddenly there are dozens. They are here, and I sigh and relax.

Monday, March 11, 2019

No Warm Fuzzies

I was the youngest of four and truly when I came along I pretty much think my parents were "done."  I remember wandering aimlessly through the house searching vainly for the dozen pictures of me posed on a rug, frozen, all set for my first roll over- yet there were none.  Where was my baby book citing every milestone, lost tooth or first words?  Nowhere.  After four kids I was lucky to get a place setting at the table. Believe me, I was grateful to find that thimble full of Kool-Aid at the bottom of the pitcher.
    So why, do you ask, was I expending some warm Hallmark moment when my dad took me out to ride a bike on that warm Indiana afternoon?  And I answer, because I was an optimist.  Because I looked down that tree lined street, each tree bowing to us in a splash of crimsons, ochres and oranges, perched perfectly atop my sister's Schwinn Hollywood bike and I thought, "This is it! I'm not the baby anymore! He's going to give me special attention,"or at least that's what I thought.
   My dreams sorta did come true for about seven or so minutes.  He coached me. He guided me.  He held onto the back of the bike.  "He loves me," was my first thought. "This is easy," was my second. And then he let go.  And for a second my bike glided.  Then it hit a broken crack in the sidewalk and I  immediately fell over.  I banged my knee. "Get up!" He ordered.  I looked at him woefully. My knee was burning, and my eyes watered.  We tried again. He stayed with me a bit longer this time and ran along side the bike. My hair was blowing as I gained momentum.  Then he let go again, my bike zig-zagged and I crashed.   This time I landed on a soft mound of grass to the side of the sidewalk and my bike wheel spinned.  I was a bit stunned. "Get back on," he commanded.  This time I was angry.  This isn't fun, I thought bitterly.  I knew that tone.   And in my best interests, I got back on. 
    We started down the sidewalk, we were far from our house now and I was disappointed in whole experience.  He was gruff.  I was never going to get the hang of this.  I felt his hand on my seat again.  He started running, and I pedaled faster.  All of sudden I couldn't feel the weight of his hand and he wasn't beside me anymore.  The trees flew by like a movie, and the air seemed to caress my hair.  I did it!  This is it!  He was a blur to the left of me, but I could just make out his hands on his hips, and I could swear he was smiling.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Cool as a cucumber

    I never knew my mother, persay.  Because of her illness I eventually had the task (it really was a gift) of cobbling together memories, and anecdotes from friends in attempt to assemble this person.
   One of the people I interviewed or spoke with was my mom's dear friend, Marian Timothy.  Marian lived three houses down from my grandparents and was not only close to my mother's age but had a brood of children much like my mother did. (Marian wasn't as brave as my mom, though. She had three to my mother's four). They sparked a quick friendship due to our frequent visits to my grandparent's home in Raleigh.  Marian knew my mother before she got sick, and later took on a HUGE role in my mother's rehabilitation, and recovery.
   Leaning back on Marian's gold damask couch that afternoon, pausing only to sip her coffee I vividly remember Marian's story of meeting my mother for the first time. 

    "I think she had brought Sheila, who was a year younger than Liz, " she reminded me.  (Marian's children Marjory, Liz and David mirrored my mother's four kids in age)  "And I just remember your mother wore white.  It floored me, you know because I knew she had four young children- and you know, white was just off limits.  It was a white sleeveless sheath and a purse to match.  We had coffee and chatted.  And then I remember your mother had to go for some reason, and she called out to your sister who was playing in the sun room."
     Marian gestured behind us, as I knew the house quite well myself having played in it many summer vacations in a row.  The sun room was no longer filled with toys, as it had been when we were children but instead now housed many books and large houseplants.  I nodded in acknowledgement.  Marian continued,
     " Your sister did not want to leave, and your mom called out again.  This time she rose quietly, and thanked me graciously for the coffee.  She walked into the sun room and your sister  abruptly threw herself on the floor and began kicking, and screaming.  Virginia scooped her up in one deft move, shifted her purse to her other hand, and thanked me again. We walked to the door, as your sister continued to scream, but by this point was was basically rendered immobile under your mother's right arm. I watched from the window as your mother swiftly walked the few hundred feet to your grandparent's house with her parcel. I will never forget that," she smiled at me then.
"She was cool as a cucumber."