What used to be…


For so many years, this was the week when I felt my energy rise and flood into every pore. This was the week when I thought about the new kids who would be in my care for ten months. It was the week when I unpacked the boxes of new folders, new notebooks, new pencils, new markers, new crayons.

For so many years, this was my week of starting over.

THIS would be the year when I’d finally understand the science curriculum and I’d engage the kids in such excitement about heating and cooling! Or THIS would finally be the year when I’d be able to make perfect small math groups so that every single child would finally grasp the wonder and joy of multiplying fractions.

The last week of August, for this teacher, meant a chance to really get it right. To forget the errors of the past, to embrace the shiny new textbooks of the new year, and to charge forward into a year of challenge and growth.

The last week of August is the time to shrug off your doubts and open your heart to your new classroom family. It is a chance to reinvent yourself and to create a new, harmonious home for your teacher heart.

I used to love this week.

Now I am in a different place. Now I watch my teaching colleagues set up their classrooms, label their desks, put names on their hallway cubbies.

Now I sit at home, feeling the cool evening air. Now I set up the pack n’ play, string the toys across the top, and organize all of the toddler snacks.

Now I sit back and appreciate the cool breeze. I think about the apple farms and the local parks. I plan trips to the lake, knowing that the only people there will be young mothers and happy grandmothers, all of us chasing little ones who are too young to worry about the first day of school.

Life is a big old circle. And I am riding around and around.

 

Let the Autumn Come


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It was a September Tuesday.  It should have been fresh and brisk outside.  Our small New England town should have been feeling the oncoming change of seasons.

It was nearly 90 degrees outside, and as humid as a typical July day in Massachusetts.  My friend and I, both retired as of July 1st, decided to spend the day kayaking on a local lake. When we made the plan, of course, we knew that it would be a “weather permitting” event.

Well.  The weather certainly permitted today!

I woke up early, showered, dressed in a bathing suit and shorts, cleaned out my kayak, and found my paddles and jacket.  I filled a water bottle, walked the dogs, and waited for Lesley to arrive.

So funny!  My dear friend, with her graying hair that matches mine, arrived in a big old pickup truck, her kayak tied safely into the back. We did what ladies our age always do (we used the bathroom before we left), then piled into the truck and headed to the lake.

The place where I took my friend is a good sized lake about ten minutes from my house. It is common in that it is a lake in a region of many lakes. It is unusual in that it is nearly uninhabited, except for a big boy scout camp on one side.

Because it is September, and schools have opened, the camp was empty when we arrived. We parked the truck, unloaded our kayaks and happily headed out into the beautiful green waters of the lake.  We paddled our way around the cove, passing the boarded up camp cabins.  We made our way to a few of the small islands that dot the lake.

We let ourselves float for a bit, watching a family of loons as they fished in the cool water.  We looked at an abandoned beaver lodge, admired the water lilies, watched a graceful blue heron groom his wings.

The sun beat down on our backs.  The sky was a perfectly clear, dry blue.  The water kept calling us.

We put the boats ashore at a tiny beach that was most likely part of the Scout Camp. We let ourselves fall into the cool, clear water.  We floated.

There were no other humans in sight.  We heard only the loons, the gently lapping waves, and breeze in the pines.

How did we get so lucky, we kept asking ourselves, grinning at each other as we lay on our backs in the middle of the lake.  How did we ever find ourselves in such a perfect place, on such a perfect day?

We closed our eyes.  We let the water carry us.  We smelled the metallic herbal tang of the water all around us.  We watched a hawk circle, high over head.

My friend and I, two women who have worked together for many years, allowed ourselves to steep in the perfect heat and cool of the moment.  We paddled our way back to shore.  We loaded the boats and went home for lunch.

Let Autumn come, we told each other.  Today was the most perfect celebration of the Summer.

Perfect.


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Today was a perfect day.

I didn’t plan to write about it, but as the day draws to a close, the perfection of it all demands to be heard. Words are bubbling up in my brain so quickly that if I don’t write them down, something up there just may burst.

It was that kind of day.

This was the first weekend of the school year.  I came home on Friday, after a mere 2 1/2 days of teaching, completely exhausted and thoroughly exhilarated.  It’s still early, I know, but I get the feeling that this is going to be one of those years when I just fall in love with my class.  I can’t really explain how or why it happens, but there are certain collections of children (for lack of a better word!) that simply reach right out and touch my heart.  This group seems to be that way.  Already.

So I came into the weekend with a lot to do, but a happy soul.  Yesterday was mostly errands and chores around the house.

Yesterday was also the sixth day in a row where the temperature went almost to 90 degrees and the humidity was nearly the same.  It was an uncomfortable, breathless, sweating, nasty day to be shopping and cleaning, but I did what had to be done.  In the evening we weathered a tornado alert and a huge, torrential thunderstorm, and I went to be praying for the stickiness to dissolve.

And we come to this morning.

I woke up at 7 to a cool breeze.  I went into the living room, trailed by my faithful doggies.  I stepped onto the deck and into a world of golden beauty.  The trees were drenched, but as they dripped, the sun shone through every drop, as if they were coated in diamonds.  The breeze blew, and a shower of sparks came down through the woods, lit up from within with a rainbow of incredible fire.

Paul woke up and we started the day with a long soak in the hot tub, breathing in the cool, crisp scent of almost-fall, and drinking our coffee as the steamy water eased the kinks out of our backs.

I had a lot of school work to do, but I was excited to be doing it.   Right after breakfast, I jumped into those tasks. I scored some math tests, prepared tomorrow’s math lesson, read some student folders and started a vocabulary sheet for our first science unit.

As the day went on, I realized that I was also determined to enter the upcoming week as fully prepared as possible.  I did all of the laundry, thinking that I would need enough clean clothes to see me through to Friday.  I washed the floor and cleaned the bathrooms: I knew I wouldn’t be doing that on a Wednesday morning any more!

And I cooked.  The coolness of the day, and the adrenaline of the new school year, combined to push me into full on Italian-woman mode.

I boiled six eggs for easy breakfasts; they were local eggs, but were two weeks old!  On Friday I picked up 2 dozen fresher chicken eggs as well as six beautiful duck eggs.

I marinated tempeh for this weeks lunches: we’re trying to cut down on the meat, but I am determined that its still going to taste good! Marinated tempeh in spring roll wrappers it is.

And I cooked down ten fresh and gorgeous tomatoes, adding spices and wine and homemade meatballs. Dinner for at least one night this week!

When everything was done, and tonight’s dinner was still waiting to be started, I sat outside on my deck, turning my face to the sun.

I am acutely aware that very, very soon, my afternoons of sunshine will be gone.  My garden-fresh foods will disappear under a layer of ice.  My casual soaks in the hot tub will be replaced with a frantic run between the hot water and the house.

Everything comes to an end.  Even this wonderful summer.

And so I am stocking up on everything I need to get through another long, cold New England winter.  I am stocking up on love for my class and on jars of fresh tomato sauce.  I am freezing fresh and local peppers and corn, and making refrigerator pickles out of those crisp and delightful little cukes.

And I am writing down the memory of a perfect September Sunday, so that I can pull it out in February, when the winds are blowing and the noses are running, and when winter feels as if it will never ever end.