Tuesday, July 31, 2018

What's special about summer?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

My 2018-19 journal
Here it is, July 31st. I know what that means: summer break is coming to a much too rapid close. I return to school on August 8th (yikes - next Wednesday!), for two weeks of professional development and then the start of the new school year.

Two small purchases this week cemented this transition for me:

- A school journal for 2018-19! I love selecting a new one of these each summer...imagine all the special snippets that I will write in the months ahead - notes about children, lesson plans, workshops, and more.
- A large wall calendar for my kitchen, where I have begun to enter this year's schedule...all the school holidays and special events, along with all my family celebrations, appointments, and events.

I am having an absolutely fabulous summer...one with so many days of true leisure that I am often unsure what day it is. Is there a better luxury than this? Here are my top ten pleasures of this summer:

  1. So much sweet time with my husband, Tony; he's retired, and summer means we both have free, open schedules. We are able to be truly present with one another.
  2. Finding time every single day to write...challenging myself to write a couple pages each day, and finding this time so meaningful and well spent, such a joy.
  3. Reading novels, devouring novels, enjoying novels - reading for the fun of it!
  4. Long, meandering walks with no real time limits - so much more relaxed than the 'must do' exercise squeezed in at the end of a teaching day.
  5. Visiting with others, catching up with old friends, traveling to Maine and Georgia to visit family...leisurely meals, excursions, relaxed conversations with family, friends, and neighbors...reconnecting with dear ones is a highlight
  6. Weeding...I actually enjoy working in my yard when I am free to start and stop when I like.
  7. Tony and I finally figuring out how to turn on Netflix without one of our sons showing us how to do it - and then browsing movies and shows.
  8. Indulging in #7 in the middle of a rainy day! 
  9. Sitting outside and noticing all the nature around me, especially the birds...whether a plump mourning dove balancing on a stair railing, bright yellow goldfinches darting out of the purple coneflowers, a single hummingbird at the feeder, there is always so much to see.
  10. Sleep..waking without an alarm, daring to take a nap in the middle of the day...yes, this is a delirious pleasure.
Oh, summer...please don't disappear on me!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

What would you do with your grief?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

My husband's brother died in a tragic accident 50 years ago this summer. Just recently, we heard a new (and, I think, very beautiful) story related to this sad time - how a young child helped with the healing. I have found that I can't stop thinking about it - so, I'm sharing it here. 

Imagine -
a mother,
a mother who has many children,
whose oldest child has made her a grandmother,
whose youngest children are in their teens.
Imagine -
this mother receiving the news that her 18 year old son has been killed in a construction accident.
Imagine -
her eviscerating pain, her crying, grief, and anguish.

How hard it must have been to breathe.

This was 50 years ago...the death of my husband's next oldest brother, in a small town in Georgia. My husband, Tony, was 16 at the time.
Tony remembers
he was pumping gas at his summer job,
mid-way through washing a customer's windshield,
when his typically tough, demanding boss broke in and said
"Tony, time to go to lunch."
(Tony always went home to lunch.)
Then, his boss stepped into the slow-moving traffic on the road by the gas station
to stop oncoming cars and make it easy for Tony
to slip out of the gas station and drive home.

Tony says he knew then that something awful must have happened,
but he didn't know what.

When he walked into the house,
his mother was sitting, wailing, in hysterics.
Family and friends were gathering,
his Dad,
everyone in acute pain and shock.

Wrong place, wrong time, turn back the clock, let's have a do over, this cannot be real. 

Imagine -
The next few days were a blur of pain and sadness.
A house of mourning.
Relatives, neighbors, and friends dropping by at all times, 
bringing casseroles and sympathy. 
Everyone moving on autopilot, needing a task - 
wiping up spills and tidying up,
perhaps one standing guard over a coffee maker, producing cup after cup for visitors, 
another fixing a plate of food for the grieving mother - which, I'm sure, remained untouched.
Hushed, muted voices repeating the details of his death over and over, 
in various corners of the house, 
a horrific vibration that mother and family could not shake, could not unhear.
A house filled with people and, yet, incredibly empty. 

in this mix, the youngest grandson (nephew of Tony) appears,
this six year old, in the midst of all these mourners.
Oh, I know that house was filled with people!

The grandson knew a good thing when he saw it ... 
all these people, this MUST be a family reunion, 
oh, yes, it must be.
He began to entreat, to beg, "Let's play whiffle ball!" 
Because, this is what everyone did at Mimi's when family gathered.
In-between and around all that delicious food and conversation, 
family would flow out into the backyard and play a pickup game of ball.
This was the tradition.

The little guy wouldn't be silenced,
as many a young child is not,
making the suggestion over and over
to his parents, his aunts and uncles, his Mimi and Papaw,
"Let's play whiffle ball!" 

this request,
this playful need,
in the midst of all that mourning.

Well, his own mother grabbed him by one arm and marched him to the back door to discipline him- "This stops! You do not ask to do this again! Can't you see, people are hurting?!" 
Mimi jumped out of her chair,
and rushed up to her daughter-in-law,
and interrupted - 
"Never you mind, girl - that boy doesn't know what he's asking, he doesn't know what's going on. Give him to me." 
With that, she took him out back, and, 
just the two of them,
they played whiffle ball. 

Back and forth they played, 
she squatting down and throwing the ball, 
he swinging hard.

 I can hear his little happy voice, when he hit the ball
"Yes! I got it, Mimi!" 

every time she threw the ball to him, she was a little less numb,
every time he took a big swing at that ball, her heart began to heal just a little tiny bit,
every time she chased a ball, she absorbed the love and laughter in his eyes,
it was the first soft feeling she had had in days.

Playing whiffle ball with her grandson was exactly what she needed.

There's so many things you try to skip
But who'll be there in case you slip
At the end of the day
little children.

Well, you're not alone.
You're not on your own.

- George Cromarty