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Showing posts from January, 2008

If a tree falls . . .

She's my mother, but since she's moved to River Court assisted living two years ago, she doesn't look like the mother I remember. She's gained weight, probably too much, but after the lean days when my father died and she stopped eating regularly, she looks pleasingly plump. Just not familiar.

She still remembers me. She knows my voice on the phone-- usually-- but I've taken to identifying myself just in case. "Hi, Mom. It's me. Ruthie." She knows me when I walk into her room, but if I passed her on the street, unexpectedly out of context, would she?

Her short-term memory is shot. She knows this, admits it with a rueful shake of her head, a slight chuckle. "I let others do the talking," she says. "I can't get in trouble that way."

It makes for a tough hour on my part when I visit. Keeping a conversation going is my forte, but I do need a return volley now and then. She responds and waits for my next comment.

I write cards fo…

When I grow up~

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Since I was six I answered the proverbial question with a simple, no-nonsense reply, "Be a teacher."

My 34-year career will end this June. Seven years ago I applied for early retirement, a state "incentive" designed to rid the profession of older, therefore higher paid, teachers.

For seven years I've been asked, "What do you want to do when you retire?" far more than I was ever asked the other question.

People assume-- rightfully-- that no one retires and sits around letting cobwebs gather. Demographics promise, barring any misfortune-- knock, knock-- that I have a good number of years ahead, decades. I'm counting on three, at least. Certainly enough time to do something when I retire.

So while I floundered with the answer at first, as the questions persisted I began to think seriously about just what I would do when foot loose and fancy free.

And now, with less than 100 school days to go, the question I ask myse…

The ants go marching~

You know that awful feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you see something sad? For me it feels like tiny ants crawling in circles, a faint but decidedly unpleasant swirl of emotion trapped inside.

I feel it when I see injured or abused animals. A bird with a broken wing flapping on the roadside, an abandoned nest of baby rabbits, and a skunk trapped in netting. Even the struggling mouse my cat proudly brings home in her mouth makes the ants crawl.

The pictures MSPCA posts regularly in the newspaper accompanied by sorrowful stories of lonely abandoned animals give me the feeling. The sad, but hopeful, eyes looking into the camera beg, "Come love me. Take me home." It crushes me.

I distract myself. I move on. The ants go to sleep. I don't forget, exactly. I just don't try to remember.

Yesterday we drove through Boston on our way to one of David's basketball games. Like all cities, Boston has its homeless, its wounded, its "invisible" people. Each …

Beyond race and gender~

I'm colorblind, racially speaking.

A black man told me this.

Back in the day when my ex gambled, and my youngest was not yet two, I delivered The Boston Globe before I went to school. Why I was scrambling to compensate for money he threw to the dogs-- literally-- is a story for another time.

During this exhausting, but strangely empowering year, I met men and women, each with their own story. Victims of corporate downsizing, victims of divorce, victims of gambling husbands, we were all victims of something.

We talked and joked, squeezing past each other on the crowded loading dock and jammed parking lot during the pre-dawn half hour it took to load up our cars and check the manifest for changes.

After a year, when I was able to quit and survive economically, Al gave me a goodbye hug. His comment, not the exact words but the gist, sticks with me today. He thanked me for being a friend, said my smile made a difference in his life, and that I acted like he wasn't black, only it came o…

Primary 2008~

So Hillary is human. Of course she is, poor woman.

She remained hard when Bill betrayed her in the public eye. She was angry, we knew; we watched her shake off his hand as they prepared to board a plane, but she never shed a public tear.

Was that a bad thing? Who's to say? Would I have cried on the nightly news in similar circumstances? I have no clue. I might have, but most likely I'd have had my armor on-- like Hillary did-- for the public.

And because she fastened her armor tightly, we all said, "How cold. She's a stone. Has she no emotion?"

And then, "She needs Bill. She wants to stay in politics. She'll never dump him."

And she didn't. For whatever reason-- love or politics-- she didn't.

But today, years after Bill had his fling with Monica, and the world watched for Hillary's response, she showed a soft side.

Exhausted, she spoke in New Hampshire on the eve of the primary elections, answering question after endless question. And she wa…

Time warp~

Teaching history to ten year olds can be a challenge. They've only got ten years under their belts. Taking them back to the 1400s pins them in a time warp so outside their ability to conceptualize that they lose the sense that the ancient cultures were once as alive and vital as ours is today.

I spend a lot of time trying to get my students to see the Mound Builders, lets say, or merchants who traveled the Silk Road, as living breathing people: people who loved, feared, cried, and had needs just like ours. They were people who had a rich culture that was as modern and technologically advanced to them as ours is to us is not something my students understand easily.

Ferdinand Magellan didn't go on his voyage bemoaning the limitations of his compass and astrolabe any more than we wake up and say, "Darn, it would be so much easier if I had something better than this iPhone."

Someday, I tell them, school children will read about us, the Ancient Americans, and wonder why…