Tuesday, April 17, 2007

how I get through

This morning, I woke again too late to my alarms, made my way rapidly through my routine, fast forward, in the car, sun glaring into my review mirror. Today the kids had a lot of work time, creating their own epic adventures--through the school, last year I featured as one of the monsters, apparently in love with Edgar Allan Poe, some traveling through mazes, through time, some using contemporary figures, some using sub sandwiches.

I began what I've been dreading during their work time: cleaning up my work spaces. The past few months have been a paper explosion. There's no way I could find extra handouts or quizzes, even if someone asked me so very kindly and bribed me with a rare used book. I worked on the counter, months worth of extras sliding into the recycling can (generally I'd keep them--for next year). I still have so much to do, so many boxes to pack, so many things to consider--do I leave them for another teacher? Do I take them just in case I have a classroom next year, or in the future at any point? Do I dare ask who is teaching what so I can give it to the right person, risk my heart throbbing a little as I looked into a future without me in it? (They can really go on without me? It can't be possible. This seems to be the only thing that makes me uncomfortable about this job situation: thinking about Next Year at This High School. Life goes on.)

A handful of people continue to express dissatisfaction with the choice (folks in my department, whose opinion on this matter means more to me then others because they are at the center of the consequences). And still others say they are jealous because they have to stay--because they don't want to be with an administration that would cut hard workers, they don't want to be with classrooms overflowing, they want to go back to graduate school themselves (so much has to fall into place for this to be a true possibility).

And still, I keep returning to this topic.

So much else has been going on in the world around us: the unspeakable tragedy at Virginia Tech (and the way all educators and students cringe at how schools have now become a ground for such violence), and K's family, who we all must think about as his grandmother makes her way through her last days after a struggle with Alzheimer's.

Happy news too: Kelly's wedding is so soon. There will be no more Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, and soon, Tuesdays, with Kelly as a fiancee, as a girlfriend, as a non-wife. And K's cousin is getting married in a few weekends. We will fly out to Boston, which I am looking forward to so much. I need to get away from the landscape of Minnesota, of the Midwest. I love it here, I can call it home, but I also am straining for change. It's spring, the time when colors burst forth, lives are re-evaluated, clutter is cleared away. We can pack up and say good-bye to old sadness, find ways to make new joy in our lives.

It is sad to lose someone so precious, but so much else: the end to suffering and finally, the reflection on all the precious things about that person's life.

It's been a number of years since a close family friend passed away. June 16th, the day I began the graduate teacher training program. I came home from a long shift at the bookstore, a shift I picked up from a co-worker, and my mother left a voice mail message. I listened to it on my way to my car and knew I shouldn't call her back, knew what she was going to tell me, but somehow, until it was said out loud, it wouldn't be true. So some time after ten at night, I called my mother, and as I stared at my row of Shakespeare plays, the repetition of tan and white binding, she told me Yvonne had passed away. This woman was like a second mother to me and my sister as we grew up; she loved us just as she loved her own children, and I knew that. And I loved her fiercely back.

And I decided this, when she died: that whenever I got frustrated with teaching, I would think of her, and I would get a surge of renewed energy. She was that glowing light at the end of all the frustration--her sense of humor, her undying love, her good nature--all that led me through some of the worst times in my first year of teaching.

And I don't think she'd say I was letting her down by the changes now. All the good that I do, I do in her memory, I do because I know how good she was to me, that I should give that to others. And I know she'd tell me that if I'm not happy, I shouldn't do it, that I should find a way to be happy. That voice, that soft southern drawl, a her bursting laughter, the way her eyes twinkled when she said something particularly clever. It's all there, inside of me, as I face everything else: the weight of leaving, the fascination with the production, my resurrected writing self, my passion for K, my life, my love, my all.

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