Sunday, September 22, 2013

House Key (artifacts of a life)

The very first key I carried opened the door to the brick house on Jean Ave and I have carried that key my whole life since. It was on my key ring while I dormed in Maine for one semester. I brought it with me to grad school in Wyoming. It jingles on my key ring even now each time I get into my car in Westford. That key opened the door to my house. My house. It had always been my house, though I never owned it and I haven’t lived there for 17 years. There were times I opened the door once a week, and times I walked through every day, and every time I went in I felt completely at home, as if I belonged there. Because I did belong there.
I don’t belong there anymore.
The house was sold to my sister last Friday.
It’s not my house anymore.
When Dad died three years ago, we started calling it Mom’s house. When she died last year, I couldn’t call it that anymore. The house was slowly emptied of things and filled with tension. I called it “the homestead,” “the brick house,” “Jean Ave,” anything to avoid saying Mom’s house because Mom wasn’t there. I mean, really wasn’t there; not her body, not her spirit. And I really thought I would sigh in relief on Friday when the papers were signed; closure, peace. But instead, I got all quiet and grumpy on Thursday in anticipation and cried on Friday morning. I no longer have my home. It didn’t feel like closure; it felt like loss.

There were lots of things that contributed to the tension over this house, things I never anticipated happening, and perhaps those tensions will be relieved with the sale. All the details are finalized and the papers passed; no more animosity or tension over it. I am not sad because my sister owns the house. I wish her happiness there whether she moves in with her husband or passes it along to one of her grown children.
No, what makes me sad is that the home that shaped me, filled with the love of my father and mother is gone. Since Mom died it has not been the comfortable gathering place we all relied on our whole loves. Since Mom died, going there did not feel welcome and safe. So really, I lost my home last year, not last Friday. But over this past year, I’ve used my key, I’ve walked through the door and, if not welcome, felt, at least, entitled to do so. And now I am not. Perhaps my sister will even change the lock.

And I have this key on my key ring that jingles each time I get in my car. And now it is no longer the key to my home. What is it now? Do I keep it on my ring as a reminder of the fortunate childhood I lived? Do I keep it there as a memento of my parents? Do I hang it on the wall, attach it to a chain around my neck? Do I ceremoniously bury it in the backyard?

This is the very fist key I ever carried and it opened the door to love. But the key doesn’t work anymore, so I have to find a new way in.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Slice of School Life

At the end of a long school day that started with a doctor’s appointment and ended with a Math test, I had seen all of my students safely onto their buses and was ready to go to my class and pack up to leave when my friend, a kindergarten teacher, walked around the corner leading a train of five-year-olds. I had heard earlier in the day that her classroom was up to 29 students. Twenty-nine. So, I stopped in front of her and asked “Do you need any help?” She took a deep breath and put her hand on a boy’s shoulder. “This boy is a walker. He got in the wrong line. Can you take him to the front?” The little boy was supposed to have gone with the teaching assistant and, in fact, had been in her line when the students were organized in their classroom, but something made him follow the teacher’s bus line instead. “Sure!” I said brightly to my friend and took the boy’s hand, introduced myself to him and walked out to the front of the building. There was a throng of excited parents and grandparents waiting to pick up their kindergarteners after the first day of school. (Kindergarten started a week after the rest of us.) The little boy saw his family right away and we walked over to them. Poor Mom was starting to get a bit anxious since all the other students from his class had been dismissed to their families. She was relieved to find him safe and gave him the greatest hello kiss. I explained the misunderstanding, she thanked me, and off they went, happy as can be.

The first day of school is stressful for all of us, but for our little kindergarteners, who may never have been in school before, it is a completely new world. They think they’re doing what’s right by following one teacher instead of the other. They’ll get the hang of it within a week.

And for kindergarten parents, oh my. When we first send our children off to school, let’s face it, we only half trust that these strangers are going to take good care of our little ones. As teachers, we have to prove it. And to our credit we usually do. I hope my friend and I earned a little trust today, despite the little mix up. 

My Slice of Life probably sounds very familiar to every teacher reading this. You can read lots of stories by teachers and other writers by visiting the Two Writing Teacher’s blog.