Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When you get lemons~

Make Lemonade

The month of June in Massachusetts has not been good to its beach goers or vacationers, or, I suppose, to any of us who have been looking forward to some warm summer sun. But being raised by a mother who often reminded me that complaining accomplished nothing, and most particularly where the weather is concerned, I'll not complain.

When it's raining lemons, I'll make the metaphorical lemonade.

I picked cherries in the rain. Not counting what we ate out of hand, our five-year-old Rainier cherry tree blessed us this year with a pie and two cobblers.

Who wants to bake in the hot summer? Not me. But in the unseasonably cool rainy days, I found it pure pleasure to mix and stir, and pop a pan into the oven, and then fold laundry while the delicious sweetness filled the house.

I thought often of my grandmother. I think it was the act of pitting the cherries--truly manual labor--and it brought to mind the long-ago summer days I'd sit with her while she shelled peas or snapped beans for supper. While I folded clothes, I thought of my mother who would iron while watching Afternoon Playhouse on TV. I can still smell the starch, and hear the hiss of steam.

Those were labor intensive days in many ways, yet they forbade the multi-tasking we are so prone to today. Laundry day was for doing a week's worth of laundry; shopping day was for buying groceries for the week. I find my self tossing in a daily load of wash and then jumping in the car to pick up some milk and bread, and then doing the same the next day. And the next. I've lost the sense of being done for a week that my mother and grandmother had.

Maybe I need a little old fashioned one-thing-at-a-time in my life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Retirement anniversary~ one year!

When I retired last June, my then 24-year-old daughter was on a business trip in Copenhagen, and couldn't attend the retirement party. She sent this note, which my son read aloud. It made me cry then, and I see now that it still chokes me up. Forgive my indulgence for posting it . . . but an "anniversary" warrants looking back. And I am.


For 36 years, you have corrected quizzes, monitored lunch rooms, chaperoned field trips, assigned homework, led discussions, read aloud, taught spelling words, and taken home class pets for summer vacations.

I’ve gotten used to finding containers of mealworms – the most recent class pet’s food of choice – firmly wedged into the refrigerator between the butter and the cream cheese.

You’ve made it clear to children that their, they’re, and there, are spelled differently – something a lot of adults I work with can’t get right, but your 11-year-olds wouldn’t be careless enough to mix them up for fear of disappointing you, and your red pen.

You’ve tied shoes, explained the multiplication tables, patiently stated that just using spell check isn’t good enough, and taught children how to think critically, and most importantly, think for themselves.

When I was a little kid, I loved visiting your classroom. I remember bright sunlight streaming through the windows, and books and building blocks spread throughout the room. I relished sinking my feet into the soft carpet of the reading circle and testing each desk to see which had the best view of the chalkboard. It was a treat to sort through all the posters and decorations you had saved to adorn each bulletin board for each change of subject or season, and I especially loved tapping on the glass of the current rat or lizard in the cage by the windowsill. I looked at the student essays tacked on the walls and eagerly anticipated the day when I would write my own essay, to be stuck on our refrigerator at home.

You set the bar for my own time in elementary school extremely high, and I constantly compared my own teachers’ classrooms to yours, knowing that the chairs in your classroom were better, you read every character’s voice flawlessly, and you had a far better variety of books in your bookshelves. Certainly you were reading Charlotte’s Web to your kids while I was stuck practicing my handwriting.

Having you for a mother has ingrained in me a deep respect for all teachers. It is one of the very toughest careers, requiring endless patience, intelligence, and creativity – traits you have in spades. Your students look up to you and they will always remember you when they think about their childhood, and thank you for the positive impact you had on all their lives.

All one has to do to see just how much respect and admiration your students have for you is look at the cards you get from them on every holiday and last day of school. Crayon messages on carefully folded pieces of construction paper bear words of thanks and admiration, and when you would bring boxes of cards and candies home on these special days I would get a lump in my throat to see there were so many other kids out there to whom you meant so much. Then I would dig through the box to look for any chocolate chip cookies.

And now, after years of being a guiding light to so many lucky students, you are going to turn your classroom lights off for the last time and start on your own “field trip.” And you’ll finally be able to sleep in.

You have so much in store for you!! Think of all the time you now have to do anything you want!! You’re going to garden. You’re going to write. You’re going to travel. You’re going to photograph everything. You’re going to read so many books that your favorite authors are going to struggle to keep up. You can throw away your alarm clock, and you’ll never again have to rise before the sun to shovel out your car on a frigid, blustery winter morning!

You will do all these things and more, knowing that for the rest of your life, wherever you go and whatever you see, you are held in the hearts of hundreds of children and colleagues who remember you as a fantastic teacher, inspiration, and friend.

And, if you ever miss teaching, just remember that you’ll always have a permanent student in me.

I’m so proud of you. Congratulations!


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day AND Happy Birthday! Call me!

I hear my husband downstairs in the living room.

"Dial home," he says. And again, "Dial home," a firm command with precise enunciation.

I think of ET, the loveable extraterrestrial asking to call home.

But Bruce is actually speaking to his new iPhone, trying to get it to recognize a voice command.

"Call Ruth Douillette, home," he commands.

The phone rings. That's for you, he yells up the stairs.

I'd figured as much.

"Hello there!" I say.

"It's me," he says.

So we talk for a bit about the marvel of this new device that does his bidding--no questions asked, no ifs, ands, or buts.

A couple of days ago, he'd asked, "Want to know what you can get me for Father's Day and my birthday?" The two are days apart.

Of course I wanted to know.

I hate shopping, and I'm a lousy gift picker-outer, to boot. I hate to disappoint, so I belabor choosing a present, looking at it from so many angles until I convince myself that it's a stupid idea, until eventually every gift seems like a stupid idea. So if Bruce knows what he wants, and he usually does, bring it on!

He wanted an iPhone. He was in line early yesterday when the phones went on sale, along with many others. It reminds me of the Cabbage Patch doll thing. Only at the Apple store they don't trample.

I don’t much understand this techno-love, and as a result, I'm probably not much fun. He tells me excitedly about all the available applications.

"But what's the point of that?" I say. "You can just . . ."

Each one seems to do something one could get better results with another way. Like seriously, would you download an app on your iPhone to tell you how to read the results of your EKG?

I thought not. That's not one he's interested in either.

But he's happy, and I already have his birthday present taken care of. Nothing to worry about from now till Christmas.
Read about my phone: Call me.

Scientist announced a device that can be placed in a pacemaker and will call your doctor whenever you are having heart trouble. When told about it, Dick Cheney said, "I can't afford those kind of phone bills.~Conan O'Brien