So I have been retired for all of four days now.
I don’t feel any different. I still see books about teaching and think, “Oooh, next year…..”
I still watch the weather report, thinking, “I have to get to the beach! Summer is so short! I have to get to the beach!”
I still feel like a teacher.
I still talk to the young lady at the grocery store register, swapping stories about how wintergreen mints make sparks in your mouth on a dark night. I still tell her, “I’m a fifth grade teacher!”
I still smile at the kids in the mall, wondering which ones are fifth grade age.
I haven’t yet shed my teacher skin.
But slowly, oh, so very slowly, I am coming to the dawning realization that my summer vacation will not end on August 31st. I am gradually, painstakingly grasping the concept of Fall as simply another season in an ongoing flow of seasons. “September” no longer means “Lack of sleep”. “September” now means more days of glorious sunshine, and maybe some quiet days on those beaches that I love so much.
I remember so clearly when my children were very young. The summer would speed by in a rush of doctors visits, dental check ups, shopping for new clothes and the occasional day at the beach. All too soon, I would find myself faced with the sad reality of trying to manage a household of five people with different demanding schedules. I remember laying out the “first day of school clothes”, setting up the coffee, packing my own work bag and pulling out the crock pot.
I remember looking at Paul and saying, “There goes Swifty”, a reference to the mechanical rabbit that took off in an endless loop to lure the greyhounds at the dog track into a pointless chase.
I remember how much I felt like one of those greyhounds on that last day of summer, about to begin my own never ending race to get myself around the track, knowing that I would never even come close to that pretend rabbit.
I remember it so well.
But now I need to look beyond that race, beyond the idea of life as a series of school years. September will no longer be my beginning. June will no longer be my end.
For the first time in so many years, maybe I can begin to see my life as an unfolding road, rather than a circle running around and around in the same narrow track. Maybe this year I can learn to love the warm golden days of October, and to embrace the coming of winter.
Maybe I can focus on the harvest, instead of the classroom assessments.
Slowly, carefully, hopefully, perhaps I can reinvent myself yet again, and find myself a spectator, rather than a racer on that endless repeating track of school days and holidays and school vacations. Maybe I can detach myself just a bit from that world, and find myself at home in a slower paced walk along the path that meanders from year to year.
Maybe I will be able to reinvent myself once again.
I hope so.