Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Things I Remember

This time of year causes me to wax nostalgic – it always does.  I assume it comes from having taught school for twelve years.  Things always end in May.

If you’ve never taught school before, you may not be able to relate to this idea.  I have a tendency to get attached to my students.  Perhaps it stems from not having children of my own, or perhaps it’s because I truly want what’s best for ‘Newman’s Own’ and take on more responsibility than I should.  Maybe it’s a combination of the two.  I don’t know, but I do know this:  Facebook and other forms of social media are great when it comes to keeping track of ‘the kids’, who by now are not kids anymore.

I read their posts and am amazed by what they’re all doing now.  They’re scattered all over the world, living, loving and succeeding.  The trouble I have, though, is thinking of them as adults.  They remain in middle school as far as I’m concerned, and I am absolutely bemused when I receive college grad announcements, wedding invitations, and word that they’re having children of their own.  A rush of memories befalls me – most of them good, many of them hilarious, and a few that are quite bittersweet.

One of them just graduated from med school.  I recall him always having a runny nose back then.  I hope his studies have helped him clear up that situation.

One of them has become a bit of a spiritual guru.  He never handed in his homework whilst a student in my class.  Even back then, I think he sensed what was really important.

The ham in class is now a ham on stage.

Other things I remember: 

The brothers who made my classroom an absolute delight with their enthusiasm for all things fabulous, who were not a delight to their older brother who was forced on more than one occasion to physically remove them from my room after school. He had places to be, I suppose, and a middle school classroom was not one of them.  I did not teach the older brother, but I liked him very much, and my heart goes out to his family on his tragic passing.

The trip to London in which a young man carried a pair of underwear around in his pocket because “Mrs. Newman said if it’s not in your suitcase that’s already loaded on the bus, that’s just too bad.”

The tiring jaunt to Paris in which a very weary Mrs. Newman told a young lady to ‘kick him where it counts if he’s bothering you.’

That time in Spain when Mrs. Newman told you all to be quiet and go to bed.  Mrs. Newman’s harsh tone did not stun you into silence, but her lack of makeup, bed-head, and super thick glasses did, and you all talked about it for days on end. “You don’t want to see her in the middle of the night,” I heard you whispering to the others.

When we went to Greece and Mrs. Newman was too preoccupied with other things to have as much fun as she should have had with you all, and for that she remains deeply sorry.

The mud day that virtually destroyed the front lawn of the campus.  What fun!

The boy who thought an entire bottle of soy sauce was necessary for our classroom chili cook-off.  We didn’t win that year.

The girl who left as quickly as she arrived when rumors regarding her well-being at home began to circulate.  I still think about her, and wonder how she’s doing now that she’s a twenty - (or is it thirty?) something.

The family of nine whose father signed his name on school forms with a dollar sign.

The laughter.

The love of good literature.

The power behind the written word.

And now the knowledge that every little thing we did really mattered…at least to me.




Friday, May 17, 2013

To Shell with It

A while back, a dear friend and I found ourselves deep in discussion on how to best transport a turtle from Southeast Texas to Iowa.  I won’t go into the reasons why the turtle has to get to Iowa – it’s not as intriguing as you might think. 

Our conversation caused me to reflect on some of the more interesting things I’ve ever had to carry by car:  a second-hand headboard, secured in an open trunk by jumper cables; a groggy cat, who did not handle his tranquilizers well for the 12-hour ride from Amarillo to Houston;  a dozen poinsettia plants, only two of which were mine…I could go on, for the Old Camry and I have covered a lot of interesting miles together.

Then I began thinking about the things we carry physically on a regular basis, became bored (except when I remembered once seeing a guy carry an entire bucket of chicken on his head), and started to muse on the figurative…

We carry hopes and dreams.  Sometimes they manifest.  Sometimes they don’t.  That lack of manifestation could easily turn into despair and hopelessness, and shouldering it all takes a mighty large toll.  We carry responsibility for ourselves and for others.  We might find, too, that we’re carrying more than our fair share.  People let us down and situations prove fruitless, so we have no choice but to carry that weight and carry on.

All that carrying could cause us to develop a shell similar to the one of the aforementioned turtle.  We could hide when we feel threatened or afraid.  We could move much slower and trod more tentatively.  Unlike the turtle, though, we have choices:  we can ask for help, refuse to take on more than we can handle, and move through life at a peppier pace.

My friend and I have yet to figure out how to get that darn turtle to Iowa.  Contrary to popular opinion, I really don’t know that much about turtles.  “Make sure all of your pit stops are at a Shell station,” was the best that I could do.

And the best that I can do is really the best that I can do.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

That'll Show 'Em

Sitting inside Happy Honey Nail Salon the other day, I overheard strange noises coming from the waiting area.  I glanced over and caught sight of a suburban woman wearing yoga pants, a ball cap, and a tremendous amount of bling for mid-morning Monday.   She was rolling her eyes and ‘tsking’ repeatedly.

“Five more minutes,” cried the salon manager.  “You came too early.”

This was met with a tsk, a grunt, and a muttered, “I thought you might be able to get me in now.”

Then I heard sniffles from her side of the room.  Surely she’s not crying, I thought.  I mean, after all it is only a nail appointment.

She got up, stomped past me and the other customers, and entered the ladies’ room.  She came out with a roll of toilet tissue.

“Don’t you have any Kleenex?”  she snapped at no one in particular.  One of the nail techs left her customer, went to the back room quickly, came out even quicker, and handed this disgruntled patron a box of tissue.

“No,” Ms. Tsk replied, clinging to the toilet tissue as if her life depended upon it.  “I’ll just use this.  You guys must have mold in here.  My allergies are going ape!”  The nail techs began speaking to one another in their native tongue.  I made a note to myself to contact Uncle Ed to see if he picked up any language lessons during his stint in Vietnam.  Then it occurred to me that nail salon gossip was probably not something he encountered too often during combat. 

After an incredibly heavy sigh, a nose blow,  and yet another tsk, our yoga-panted friend stormed out of Happy Honey, taking the roll of toilet tissue with her.

I never thought of stealing TP in order to teach someone a lesson, but hey, if it makes you feel any better about things….

And the hits just keep on coming….

A blast from the past with whom I reconnected via a social media site has determined that ‘some things never change’ and as a result, she disconnected herself from those with whom she reconnected, including yours truly.  Evidently, she’s held a grudge since childhood – why, I don’t know, for she seemed to have it all as far as my young perspective could tell.  Long story short, a planned gathering that took weeks to figure out was not to her liking.  I had no opinion on the gathering either way, but she apparently did.  I wasn’t hurt by her disconnect, just a little baffled how I, who has very little interaction with these folks, got lumped into it all.  Her Disconnect Proclamation stated that she would again accept a social connection invitation from those of us whom she ‘dissed’, but I’ve opted to decline.  We were never that tight in the first place, and I’ve got plenty of connections keeping me entertained and up-to-date on whose child has the worst earache and ‘That’s What’s for Supper’ photos for the time being.

So I find myself musing today about how far people will go in order to ‘teach others a lesson’.  Sure, you’ve got the usual – quitting a job and blasting Johnny Paycheck’s Take This Job and Shove It while emptying your desk drawers and stealing the company’s stapler and pushpins, allowing your husband’s dirty clothes to pile up because he hasn’t complimented you in weeks, or taking a neighbor’s beat-up old bicycle to the dump because he’s had it parked on your side of the lawn for days.  (Side note:  he got the bike from the trash – I saw him, and short of parking it on my property he didn’t do a darn thing with it, so there.)  Are we really teaching a lesson here, or are we simply delving into drama in order to garner a little attention, some sympathy, or perhaps even a bit of notoriety?  Does ‘sticking it’ to someone make us feel better, really?  In my case it did, but I shouldn’t speak on someone else’s behalf.  I have issues.

Personally, I think the best way to teach a lesson is to live by example.  Through our manner of living, we can offer someone an awful lot to think about – whether good or bad.  Some of my best teachers have been truly the worst sort of people, but I’m thankful for each episode, for it made me realize what I don’t want out of life:  pettiness, selfishness, micro-managing, and weird-but-not-in-a-good-way type of stuff.

With that being said, I do understand that even the most blinged-out among us might be struggling with some sort of incomprehensible scene – we really shouldn’t judge.  I know firsthand that high school hurts can run deep, and boy, am I glad I let those go years ago. It is my sincerest wish that anyone who was bullied, mocked, or just plain ignored are able to do so as well. 

But stealing toilet tissue?  That’s just messed up.