I exited the meeting for new teachers with the words of the dictatorial principal, Mr. Bailey, ringing in my ears: “Remember no gum, no slacks, no mini-skirts. Never be late for recess or lunch duty. And I will check your lesson plans every Friday for their adherence to your grade-level curriculum.”
The Christmas homes of my childhood and adolescence were never the glossy homes of Christmas advertising: imposing structures lit by evenly-spaced lights filled with artistically decorated rooms inhabited by smiling families with color-coordinated clothing and perfect teeth.
My mother sometimes asked her children to express gratitude for something meaningful before they indulged their Thanksgiving appetites. If I had mentioned my gratitude for the raisins she put in her homemade cinnamon rolls, she would have looked at me with disapproval. But, to me, a cinnamon roll without raisins wasn’t worth chewing. I know many folks disagree, but I’ve never met a raisin I didn’t like, and I’m grateful for them.
Growing up in a rural area in the years following World War II, my friends and I quickly absorbed the behaviors deemed appropriate for boys and girls; behaviors we learned from picture books, movies, parents, peers and siblings.
Last summer, during one of my Sunday morning walks, a power outage undid my husband, Joel. When I arrived home, I found him in the alley, looking beleaguered and whacking a hedge. With waving shears, he beckoned me near and then began a tale of woe: “You won’t believe what happened. When I started to fix my breakfast, the power went out, so no bacon and eggs. Then my coffee was cold, so I thought I’d reheat it. Nope. No microwave. I couldn’t even defrost blueberries to eat with cereal.”
When I hear about the latest, greatest, sure-fire innovation to increase student learning, I feel weary.
Like most newly hatched garage-sale addicts, after a summer spent buying second-hand goods on Saturday and questioning my sanity on Sunday, I decided to have a garage sale of my own. I convinced a group of friends to co-host a sale in my back yard; the ladies who nurtured my garage-sale mania, Shirley and Eileen, agreed to lend their wisdom to our cause.
On May 30, small flags will be planted; and those who remember will quietly gather in cemeteries across our land. Taps will soar, echo and fade. The names of men and women who died serving our country during times of war will be read, and crowds either large and small, but always attentive, will listen with gratitude to the roll call of our honored dead.
When I think of my mother, as I did on Mother’s Day, I see her in her mid-60s. She sits in her favorite rocking chair in a circle of lamplight that softens her wrinkles and highlights her brown hair. As she sews a button on one of Dad’s shirts, her wedding band, thinned by 50 years of wear, flashes in the lamp’s glow.
Mrs. Huff was noted for her monumental bosom and the hiccupping soprano. She used to teach my third-grade class the song “Far Away Places.” Singing lyrics about the alluring glamour of lands across the sea shaped my desire to visit “places with strange sounding names,” and motivated my collection of unusual words that describe travelers’ experiences or emotions. Some of my favorites follow.
In September of 2015, ten scientists won the satirical Ig Nobel Prize for scientific studies of questionable worth. When I read about the tongue-in-cheek prize and the dubious research it rewarded, I felt better about my failed attempts to participate in an extra-curricular science fair in seventh grade.
Every year, since moving to Craig in 1996, I wait for the spring of Disney movies and picture books: birds swooping, squirrels frolicking, flowers blossoming along my path and colts auditioning new legs.
At my age, if I said I’m surprised by my gravity-altered body, I’d sound no brighter than a collie being amazed by ticks after a romp in the woods. Some things in life are as certain as a stalemate in Congress.
As usual, I began by wallowing in a quagmire of indecision. For months, I’d busily and happily written new material to combine with past columns for a book. Now I had a choice: attempt to publish my work or let it die an anonymous little death on my computer.
Last August, a niece who teaches high school posted on Facebook, “Oh, hello, teaching anxiety. There you are. I was wondering when you’d show up.” A week later, a friend in Alabama wrote, “I am going to start my 10th year of teaching next week. Can a person be full of excitement and dread at the same time?”
The '50s may have been a simpler time, but they weren’t all birthday cake and ice cream. I remember crouching under my desk, hearing my heart thump and my teacher’s hose rub as she patrolled the classroom during an atomic bomb drill. Then, the next day, she distributed iodine tablets that my classmates and I obediently took once each week to prevent goiters. As we swallowed, we imagined growing lumps hanging from our necks until people mistook us for turkeys.
When my husband and I entered our assigned room in the downtown Denver hotel, we saw an open suitcase on an easy chair, clothes strewn about, and a football game on TV. Joel about-faced, dragged a baffled me back into the corridor, and rushed off to the lobby.