Monday marked the closure of my teaching career. A rounded off twenty years of teaching: 19 in the classroom with 1 year as the credit recovery coordinator.
Our school holds a retirement breakfast and each principal or supervisor says a few words about their retiring staff member before handing over a handsome plaque. My principal did say a few nice words then stumped me with an obscure Shakespeare quote. With a reputation as the resident Bardinator he must have thought I would be able to quote what play it hailed from. If I had known there was going to be a pop quiz I would have studied the night before.
WHEREOF WHAT’S PAST IS PROLOGUE; WHAT TO COME, IN YOURS AND MY DISCHARGE. —The Tempest, 2.1 (missed this one, so distracted by Ariel and Caliban)
Our vice-principal, who handles most of the disciplinary issues, decided a mild roasting was in order. He declared me the most prolific behavior referral writer among the staff, keeping him busy (isn’t this called job security?) and handed me “Webb’s Greatest Hits”—a thirteen page document of all my discipline referrals over my classroom tenure. (Isn’t this just doing my job with dedicated zeal for behavior modification?)
Post breakfast meant turning in my phone, keys, and final farewells. Being homeless, since another teacher was moving into room with gusto, I left. Basically my teaching career ended before 10 am. That’s a ponderful thought: you can take away a teacher’s room but there is always room for teachers.
I spent the rest of the day reading, napping, finding a place to put away my accumulation of classroom stuff acquired over 20 years. That’s a very different post.
Over the past week people kept asking how it felt to be retiring. I had a different reply depending on the day. After all, it wasn’t over until my grades and keys were turned in. On this last day, the reality of leaving the career I inadvertently was herded into washed over me when a former student, now our study hall supervisor found me after the breakfast and said, “I’m sad you’re leaving. I’m happy for your retirement, but sad you’re leaving.” Yes, that’s exactly how I feel as well.
As how to spend the first day of retirement? It’s my birthday—so I’ll do whatever I want. It’s Flag Day to boot!
Happy retirement! Happy Birthday! Happy Flag Day!
June 14th. It’s Flag Day and it’s my birthday. It’s embarrassing to admit, but clear up to the age of twelve, I believed my mother that the neighborhood, in recognition of my birthday, hung their flags out. You would think I would have become a bit suspicious of her story’s validity since there were flags out all over the town. Maybe I simply believed that strongly in my mother’s influence.
Birthdays have always been a big deal for me. Growing up with flags unfurled can do that, I suppose. However, as the candles marked the increase of years, my enthusiasm has decreased for acknowledging my yearly passage. Unless it’s a big deal year—as in significant. Fifty was a big deal year. Not because 50 is a big deal—rather it was because my first grandchild was born the next day. That’s right, the next day. We missed sharing the same birthday by that much. This year, 2020, is not a big deal year. Two years from now, yes. Not this year. In fact, with the pandemic on, and the family separated, and in isolation, I’m not expecting much. I will hang my flag out though.
As for birthday songs, that’s another reflection of note. I’ve never understood the traditional birthday song. It’s morose sounding and usually sung off key. Trevor Noah provides an enlightening dissertation on the birthday song. He grew up with a much better version.
Years ago, my mom and step-dad began calling up and leaving a rendition of the birthday song on the answering machine. I had never heard that version before, and even though two retired permanent-status snowbirds sang it pitch unaware, it became a highlight of my birthday. Sadly, my step-dad passed away last May. No more songs, and Mom is too sad to sing solo. Yet, I discovered the song in a movie—a Disney movie called The Emperor’s New Groove. I don’t think the folks watched that movie, maybe if Barbra Streisand had been one of the voices, she would have, so I am wondering where they got their birthday song. I will have to ask her. In the meantime I will go find my flag.
Do you have a Flag Day birthday? Then happy birthday. May you have a happy birthday song sung to you!
One aspect of ushering out the year of previous is reflection. The year of 2019 has been one of changes—some sad, some significant, and some ongoing.
Among these changes are milestones. A couple worth mentioning:
WordPress has informed me that I began my journey with them eight years ago. In dog years, which is somewhat equivalent to blog years, that would be nearly sixty years of contributing and sharing my thoughts with others. Thumbs up!👍🏻
Goodreads notified me that I’ve read 139 books for the year, up four from last year. And I should have 140 read by this weekend. Woo hoo! 👏
I applied for a part time librarian position at our local high school in 1999 and twenty years later I am in the classroom having become a certified English teacher, expounding on the merits of literature, language, and composition. Whew!😅
In 1992 Highlights for Children published a story of mine, “Marvin Composes a Tea.” It was awarded their Author of the Month and is the title-lead story in a Boyd’s Mills Press anthology. Although I thought my author career had started with a flourish, and I anticipated dozens of published books by now, twenty-seven years later my picture book Someday We Will: a book for grandparents and grandchildren was accepted by Beaming Books. A little later than expected, but happy nonetheless! 📚
And a very significant milestone is that my mother turns 93 at the end of 2019. Having survived Hitler’s war as a teenager in Germany, she has also survived cancer, a heart attack, and has buried three husbands, a son, two brothers, her parents, and keeps forging on. Yup, she’s feisty and tenacious of life. So happy birthday, Mom!🎊🎁🎉
I’m looking forward to 2020–difficult to avoid that 20/20 comparison of seeing life with a clear focus.
How about you, what milestones happened for you in 2019?
I did not experience the solar eclipse, but I am content with the strange sorta kinda dimness that I thought I was the eclipse. We do not live in the pathway and we hadn’t considered making the seven hour drive to witness the two minutes.
I did experience some type of eclipse in college during the eighties, can’t remember what type. I do remember a group of us signed up for an adventure excursion trip. We jumped into a van and drovehalf a day with no real plan. At the eclipse approached someone in the van yelled, “Pull over here!” We stopped at the top of a hill overlooking a vineyard. Slowly it grew dusk, cars on the ribbon of highway below began turning on headlights, but none stopped driving. A dim shadow quavered through the vineyard momentarily transforming it into an Ansel Adams time lapse print of grey landscape tones. Quite surreal.
This time around, I missed out due to being preoccupied with my mending broken wrist. I did virtually share the wonder of the event through NASA.gov with millions of other non-pathers and was genuinely happy for the crowds. Maybe next time I’ll plan it better. For now I’ll be humming Donovan:
The Perfect Eclipse Tune
How was solar eclipse experience?
Jellyfish freak me out. This stems from a series of childhood encounters with them. One instance involved being dumped into a flock of the gelatinous goo by my dad. These were the teeny non-stinging transparent types, so no harm to me except I cringe whenever I see them now. The jellyfish scene in Bond required deep breathing.
It’s said we overcome our fears by facing them. This poem helps. I still don’t like jellyfish. I see them in a bit friendlier way now.
by Marianne Moore
A fluctuating charm,
An amber-colored amethyst
Inhabits it; your arm
It opens and
You have meant
To catch it,
And it shrivels;
It opens, and it
Closes and you
Reach for it—
Grows cloudy, and
It floats away
An extended metaphor of personal significance.
When I taught you at eight to ride a bicycle, loping along beside you as you wobbled away on two round wheels, my own mouth rounding in surprise when you pulled ahead down the curved path of the park, I kept waiting for the thud of your crash as I sprinted to catch up, while you grew smaller, more breakable with distance, pumping, pumping for your life, screaming with laughter, the hair flapping behind you like a handkerchief waving goodbye.
Memory loss. It’s really become apparent I’m losing it. Yes, I’m losing my memory. And I don’t consider myself that old–at least I don’t think I’m old enough to be losing it, at least not completely. It’s not like I had a huge memory reserve on hand. I am and have remained absolutely terrible at memorizing words. I gave up thoughts of trying the stage, because memorizing my lines prived akin to storing apple cider in a sieve. I have given up on dazzling people with my ability to quote Shakespearean sonnets and lines from Hamlet, because it’s not and has yet to happen. I’ve accepted that part of life. Yet, lately I’ve had times when I’m staring out the copy machine and for all the tea in China–make that all the chocolate in Willy Wonka’s factory–I can’t remember my code. Yeah, the one I’ve used practically everyday for the past five years at school. *sigh*
Fortunately, a Ted Talk on memory loss popped into my email box before I began the search for a comfortable home for worn out teachers. I will go with the one with the birdfeeders outside the window. Nice Care will have to wait, because Ted and his Talk has confirmed that I’m losing it because I’m stressed out and trying to survive. Who thought teaching would rob my brain of trying to remember stuff?
If you are beginning to lose it, check out this Ted Talk. I feel much better about losing my memory. Wait, did I already post this blog earlier?