I haven’t thought about writing in so long. My new job, which will soon become my old job, has kept me very busy. I work until 6:00 two days a week, 3:30 the other three days, and spend my evenings reading teaching blogs, researching ways to teach Van Gogh, Monet, DaVinci, Michelangelo, verbs, spelling lists, Little House in the Big Woods to kindergarteners, first graders, second graders and third graders. On the weekends, I dust, vacuum, cook, scrub toilets and catch up on the endless pile of laundry. By the time the evening hours come along, I do not have a brain that thinks clearly; I certainly do not have one that can write a lucid sentence.
But, as I said, the new job will soon become the old job. Only two weeks are left in the school year, and I am counting down the days. I have loved the children at my school and am so, so thankful that I got to be their teacher this year. I cannot tell you how much I will miss them. But the position has not been easy, and I knew early into the school year that I would not be staying. The time is almost upon me, and I am not looking forward to saying goodbye to the children. They are the reason I accepted this job. They are what I will miss.
With that said, however, I can also say that I have started to feel like me again– I want to write again, I want to read again, I want to paint again. And I can see a future where I will be doing all those things again. I cannot wait.
Which also means here I am again. Back in the saddle, as the saying goes. Ready to enjoy my kids again, ready to record all their craziness again. Ready.
I became ready when spring and spring break arrived. I slept in, I played games with my kids and one night, the last night of spring break, John and I took the kids to Chik-Fil-A for ice cream. The kids all got shakes and John and I shared an iced coffee. Butters, of course, did not finish her cookies and cream milkshake and brought it with her in the car.
As soon as John started to back the van out of our parking space, a scream came from the back seat. I turned around to see most of Butters’ milkshake on the floor, cup still in her hand, the rest of the milkshake sloshing out of the cup, dripping onto the floor of the car. John had already backed out of our spot by now, so he drove forward a few spaces and parked quite crookedly in another spot.
Putting the car in park, he jumped out of his seat and popped the back door of the van open. He made a few unpleasant noises and said a few inappropriate words, then shook his head and ran back to the restaurant to gather a few hundred napkins.
He returned and began cleaning the puddle of milkshake off the floor, but Butters kept screeching about something. Finally, I recognized that she was saying something about her shoes, and I told John to take off her shoes. He reached for one, and as he tilted it off her foot, what appeared to be an entire milkshake poured out of it.
Then John reached for her other shoe, and, again, another milkshake poured from it.
And he said, “Perfect, this is perfect.”
Then he said, “what’s that smell?” and a little voice from the back row of the van said, “Sorry.”
And I started to laugh and couldn’t stop. It felt as if it had been so long since I laughed a real, true, deep, unaffected, unmitigated, un-what? laugh. And it felt so good.
The me who existed before this job and took for granted all the time she spent with her kids would have freaked out. Well, maybe not freaked, but had been very annoyed. Sticky ice-cream all over the floor of the car? Are you kidding me? Why can’t you hold on to your cup, Elizabeth?
But this me who has missed her kids just laughed. What does it matter, really, if there is ice-cream on the floor of the car? Has anyone seen my car lately? It is not a vehicle that anyone would call clean.
You know, things happen for a reason. I have lived my life believing that and I still do. This job has not been easy for me, but it has taught me so much. I always believed I could be a really good teacher to young kids (before this job I had taught only college kids) and through this job, I found that I was right.
So, if I could, if I had the chance, would I just erase this year from my life?
I know my 11 year old daughter, Lauren, would shout “yes”. She told me a few days ago that she liked me better when I was less uptight. When I balked at such a description of me, she corrected herself and said she meant “grumpy” then corrected that to say she meant “crabby” then corrected that to say “stressed out and old acting.” Thank you, Lauren, for always being honest with me. Mom appreciates it.
I would not say yes. The kids I met and have spent this school year with? Oh, my, I cannot imagine not meeting them, and supporting them, and encouraging them, and teaching them, and, yes, loving them.
What a privilege it has been to teach and care for these children this year! A privilege to get to know them, be part of their lives, see the world as only five-, six-, seven- and eight-year old children can. I was given the chance to remember what it is like to be a young kid. How often does one get such a chance?
So, never, never would I take back this year. Hard does not mean one should forget. Giving birth to each of my four children was hard, but I certainly do not plan to ever forget those events.
Nor do I plan to forget this year.
But I do plan to look forward, not backward– look ahead, plan ahead, move ahead.
Here I go.