When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me that I think too much. While I'm not sure what would prompt that admonition, I do know that it continued long into my teen years.
These days, when the weather here in NEO has turned cooler, greyer, and wetter, I am prone to introspection. My tendency is also to cocoon. Piper and Marlowe don't do much to discourage this behaviour; they're drowsy and inclined to curl up on my lap or in their beds and only animate themselves if I am up and busy. There is always a Project, or Light Domestic Goddessing, or Something To Do. I have some writing jobs, paid and pro bono, the latter for charities and people I care about. When I do go out for errands, the cats are accusatory and reproachful upon my return. Only when they see I am staying home for a while do they accept me back into their good graces.
I'm often asked if I have regrets about retiring. The short answer is No. My dear Aunt Shirley, herself a retired English teacher, counseled me way back in July to take a short trip the week school started. "You'll need to be away," she said knowingly. "Trust me. You don't think you'll miss it, but you will. You need to be away when it starts back up so you won't feel strange." Well, I didn't and I don't. I left at just the Right Time for me.
I am often asked if I miss Teaching--in my mind, a different question entirely. The answer is very complicated, so I usually answer, "Oh, sometimes." My teacher friends never ask me. They already know.
I do not miss the Not Teaching part: incessant record keeping, phone calls home to parents of highschoolers, labyrinthine office procedures, unreliable copy machines, being informed that the internet is down via email, baffling administrative protocols, and the constant disrespect by government--and, oh hell, let's throw society in there, too--at every level.
But every so often, I do miss the Teaching part. I treasured being the Giver Of Literature to my students. It was with true reverence that I gave them the work of Walt Whitman (America's first hippie); that I introduced them to the genius of Miss Emily (Dickinson). Who else will enlist empathy and champions for poor, motherless (for all intents and purposes) Holden Caulfield? Who else will defend the honor of Edgar Allan Poe and beg the students to look, look deep into his eyes before they read his work, before they dismiss him as some drunk crazy who married his teenaged cousin?
And I miss working with Creative Writing students the most. Words and writing are my passion, and there was an electric satisfaction, a sort of inspirational symbiosis that occurred when I sat down in conference with my writers those many years. I felt simultaneously rejuvenated and drained by them. It was a glorious paradox, and those decades were Golden Privilege. This year, Creative Writing is not even offered, and it breaks my heart.
So much of Teaching--True Teaching--is a Gift. I have it, I gave it, and I got it in return. Like many gifts, it wasn't always perfect, and there were times when I wondered if the recipients were deserving. But let's not belabor the metaphor. Or...think too much about it.
Instead, I have a little jaunt to get ready for and some PR stuff to write. And the head of cauliflower in the crisper won't clean, cut, season, and roast itself as part of tonight's dinner. It might be a good idea to update our Cellar Inventory, too. Allow me a small indulgence: to leave you with my good friend, Walt.