I’ve read a hundred or more books about lives taking abrupt turns, about dramatic endings, about sudden loss.
I’ve even written a few books on those topics, too, and had readers email me with comments such as, “I hated that. Why did you do that to my favorite characters?”
Right now I feel like I’m living all of those stories simultaneously, and I keep waiting for the books to close and life to go back, pretending that I’m in charge of this plot.
And I know all of you can relate to what I’m feeling.
Today I’m cleaning out my classroom, a task I didn’t plan on doing until June 12. But on that Friday in a few weeks I anticipate moving into my new rental house in Utah–2,700 miles away from where I now sit in Maine.
(For those of you who have read my books, I went through and “patted” everything first just as Mahrree did in Edge at the beginning of Book 5.)
I always expected to be here only three years anyway. I had told my adult children living in Utah we’d return after Dad’s jaunt to the east coast. Only three years. But then we thought we could stretch it out for longer, another year or two. And then everything started going strange, and I wanted nothing more than to be back with my kids. So it turned out to be only three years after all.
Three very fast, unforgettable years.
I expected sad good-byes this month and next, when school graduation took place June 1, and the rest of the students left by June 10th.
Today, I would have expected still four more weeks of students crowding into my slightly-too-small classroom, leaving the musky, sweaty scent of teenagers in spring that my window fan would struggle to swirl out of there each afternoon.
I expected to give them all a little farewell speech in June where I thanked them for accepting me, entertaining me, and teaching me for the past three years. Where I told them that I had quickly grown to love them, and that they had become “my kids,” and always would be.
I never expected that Friday, March 13, would be the hurried last day, when I called out to my students who suddenly found out they wouldn’t be coming back on Monday, “Take everything home with you! We might not be back for two full weeks!”
Unimaginable. Two whole weeks?!
But it was two whole months. And now three.
They never came back.
I had intimations of that when I did lunch duty that day in March, Friday the 13th. I had lunch duty once a week to monitor the doors, and I hated it. I usually write notes about something I needed to do, trying to ignore the noise of Lunch C.
But not on Friday, March 13. I felt God nudge my head up from my notebook and I heard a whisper, “What if today is the very last day? Your last look at the students of this school?”
Being someone who loves to entertain any plot, I played along and watched the kids that day. I tried to name each one in my head, remember their behavior in my class (I’ve had about 75% of the student body in my classes by now), I watched who they interacted with, and I smiled or cringed.
At that point of the day, none of them knew that my husband had messaged me earlier: The admins will be temporarily closing school because of the virus. They’ll announce it in the last period. Keep it quiet for now.
I took notes, and just now I found them, still on my shelf behind my desk where I dropped them, exactly two months ago today.
My handwriting is difficult to decipher, but some of the lines read,
“What if this is my last lunchtime? I can’t swallow it. I imagined it so different, but also so grateful I got to pull this shift. I usually hate this. Today–I’m grateful for one last look, if it is the last look.”
It was the last look. None of us would have imagined that.
I had a prom dress boutique to put together with the National Honor Society in April. We had junior prom in May, and I was asked to again announce the juniors as they entered. I was planning to have my AP students come to my house to watch “The Great Gatsby” and have a barbecue before the end of school, we had the AP Exam coming . . . (which is starting in just one hour. I’m writing this in my classroom as my kids sit at home trying to write only one essay to pass the test. It’s like putting all your eggs in one basket, then running through a forest and not dropping any . . . )
Ridiculous now to think of any of those past plans while we try to make some new, tentative ones.
I’m sitting in my classroom, one last time right now. I took down the chairs, turned on the lights, and made it seem like a regular Wednesday afternoon. My husband will call me maudlin. I call it therapeutic.
And just now, as I’m taking pictures and saying good-bye, I’m realizing it more important to say THANK YOU!
This isn’t a time for brooding, but celebrating!
- Thank you, WA and students, for reminding me that I love teenagers.
- Thank you for accepting me so readily.
- Thank you for asking me to chaperone dances, to advise groups, to take pictures, to come to your activities, to write you letters of recommendation. It was fun. Truly, deeply, amazingly FUN!
- Thanks for letting me dance at those dances and pep rallies, and for even playing my music and not laughing at me.
- Thank you for such growth! For such trials! (Don’t make me name names–you know who you are, and there are several of you.)
- Thank you for pushing me to my very limits–mentally, emotionally, and even intellectually. I didn’t know I could go that far and still survive. And then come back the next day and do it all over again. (But you have to come back, just to see if you can do it again.)
- Thank you for your patience, for your willingness to try new things, for laughing at my lame jokes, for letting me roast you in front of the whole class. But you asked for it, because you tried to roast me first. But I never, never lose a roasting. You know that now.
- Thank you for such life, such activity, for teaching me about “Bubs” and trucks and hunting and lobster fishing and cheering and even the darker elements of your lives. You have enriched me and sobered me.
- Thank you for your inspiration, for showing me true resilience, patience, endurance, and determination. Many of you live difficult lives, and I wept for you and prayed for you. I will continue to do so until the end of time.
- And thank you for letting me come back some day, because I know I will. I’ll come looking for you. And that’s when I’ll get to hug you again. And we’ll laugh and remember together.
- Until then . . .
I love you.
Thank you for these past three unforgettable years.