Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks, for the Memories

The fondest, and earliest Thanksgiving memories I have are of chaos!  What seems like dozens of cousins, three mostly complete sets of great aunts and uncles, my dad’s sister and her husband, my dad and the three of us kids, all crammed into my grandparent’s tiny house on Maple Street in Vancouver.  The adults crowded around the antique dining table, under the crystal chandelier that was rescued from the home of great grandparents I never knew.  This dining room was minuscule, about 10’ x 10’ with the kitchen so close, it was an easy reach to the counters and stove top loaded with myriad traditional dishes, lovingly prepared by the aunts. Candles were glowing and liquor was flowing.

All of the cousins, complete with olives on our fingers, were squished on the couch, or perched on creaky leather seated folding chairs (one of which I still proudly own!) with two-three uneven card tables, covered with damask tablecloths, befitting the holiday gathering.
My Uncle Dick, being silly outside his garage in the 1950's.
Dinner was rowdy and rambunctious, loud and oftentimes obnoxious, as dear great Uncle Dick was unruly in the best of circumstances, and more so with ample doses of brandy. The male oldsters argued about anything and everything, while the women attempted to keep the peace. I adored all of my aunts and uncles, and, as drunkenness was just part of the deal, I never knew any better.  The holidays were never boring with this crew.
1984 - Much of my Dad's extended family
our last Thanksgiving together
at Fruit Valley Community Center.
No one had a big enough house anymore!
We're missing lots of folks from this one.
And, many of those babies have their own babies now!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fabulous Fall

One of the two maples next to our driveway.

Finally, the maple trees in front of the house have turned red.  Several years ago, probably ten or more, we had new neighbors move in next door.  The first thing they did was chop down an old maple tree that was smack dab between our two driveways.  I came home from work to a very empty space, and a proud neighbor who shouted over to me, "Looks great, doesn't it?"  I wanted to cry, and I think I did.

The next weekend I went out to a nursery and bought two spindly maple trees and had my husband plant them on either side of our driveway, fully within our own property lines. Surprisingly, we still have a fairly good relationship with those neighbors . . . who have proceeded to chop down every tree on their property!

When I bought the trees, I asked specifically for trees that would turn color early in the fall.  Someone lead me astray and I got a little cranky that first year as I waited, and waited, and waited some more for the gorgeous red that comes so painstakingly slow to those trees.  But, oh boy, when it finally arrived, it was worth the wait.  I love the brilliant red, and have resigned myself to boasting that I have the last trees to turn in our section of town. 

This fall has been nothing short of fabulous.  Two weekends ago, I was fortunate to reunite with the infamous blogging Vashonistas, who all brought cameras and posted amazing photos on their blogs ~ DebDJanSallyJann, and our organizer, Linda.  I think I'm the last one to blog about the reunion!  I wrote about it last year here.  My camera took lousy photos, for some reason, so I am especially enjoying the ones my fellow bloggers posted!

Taking off for Vashon this year, Deb and I wondered if it could possibly surpass our inaugural meeting in 2012.  Spending precious time with Deb, my traveling companion, dear friend and confidant, and co-cook in the kitchen, was an added bonus.  We needn't have worried, as every moment that someone was awake was filled with conversation and laughter.  We ate well, got more exercise than some of us bargained for, and renewed our friendships.  The weather was nearly perfect, and the occasional drizzle didn't slow us down, or dampen our spirits, one bit.

This morning I am blessed with a bit of extra time, as I have a follow up appointment with the dermatologist in a couple hours for my full body check!  Not one I look forward to, as last time I had two biopsies and cancer was discovered on my face.  I neglected to post about that somewhat traumatizing experience, but it's over now, and amazingly, the scar is barely noticeable.  Those surgeons are pretty good!

A later start gave me the luxury of an invigorating walk before breakfast, and although it is still foggy, it was pleasant wearing a sweatshirt.  It was the first walk I've taken since the Vashon weekend, as I ended up with quite a bit of knee pain for most of the week following our hike. For those who knew me before partial knee replacement in 2011, I'm still fighting discomfort and unable to hike as I could prior to surgery.  In fact, I have an appointment with the surgeon later this month to discuss the situation.

I love the vibrant colors of fall.  I love crunching through crisp golden leaves, big harvest moons, and cold, clear days. Walking into work last Friday, I looked over at my favorite maple tree in front of the school and realized there were just a few straggling leaves left.  Just a hint of moisture hovered in the air from my expelled breath and as I burst into the office I exclaimed, "Call me crazy, but I absolutely love fall mornings!"  The secretary looked at me as if I was truly insane, and shook her head, laughing.  Not everyone is an leaf lover, I guess.

Autumn is chock full of some of my favorite things ~ crisp apples, orange pumpkins, and anything made from either of those two food items.  I look forward to the new school year, fresh faced students, the heady scent of a just opened box of crayola crayons.  The days are full of promises, and the nights are beginning to lengthen ~ I anticipate the pleasure of curling up with a good book and a cup of tea in front of the stove.

This year feels like an ending rather than a beginning.  As I readied my classroom, met my students and their parents, began the arduous task of learning new requirements, and planning for upcoming curriculum changes, I found myself at a crossroads.  It's leaving time.  If I stick to my plan, this will be my last "beginning of the year" September. I thought I'd be excited about it.  I thought I couldn't wait for this.  But now, I don't know what to think.

I should be rejoicing. I feel like crying. And it's not just because it seems I always have a week's worth of papers to read, mark, and record.  Surely I would miss this aspect of teaching, wouldn't I?

I suppose.

Just a couple weeks ago we held fall conferences.  I diligently went through the grade book, determined averages, recorded missing assignments, and typed up a half-sheet to give to the parents of each of my 27 students regarding each subject.  At first, I was just planning to do this for my ELL students, as they will be translated into Spanish.  Then, I decided, "What the heck!  I'll just do it for everyone."  While I've always prepared a hand written sort of progress report for parents at conferences, I hadn't typed them up before.  I now think it's a great idea and wish I'd thought of it years ago.

It doesn't really make much sense, but I'm going to miss fall conferences!  Exhausting as they are to prep for, I love the opportunity to get to know the families of my students, and for them to get to know me.

As I write, I also think about why retirement seemed like such a good idea last spring when David and I talked about it.  We had just lost David's closest and longest friend to brain cancer.  We were numb with grief and the shock of how quickly life can be extinguished. We looked at each other and both agreed that life was too short; and we wanted to make the most of whatever years (months?? days??) we have left. So, we discussed finances and made some decisions.  I was practically giddy with the thought of being "done" with the continual political demands of teaching that have so little to do with teaching.

Right now, I can honestly say the last thing I want to do is retire.  I love my job.  I love the kids, and some of my favorite people are my fellow teachers.  And, I selfishly think about how much I enjoy a steady paycheck, that allows me to live, if not in luxury, at least in comfort. I'm happy with my life as it is, and while I really do want to retire and travel in the near future, I'm not so sure it needs to be this coming June.

I'm not making any definite decisions, yet.  But I am going to enjoy this fabulous fall with every fiber of my being, knowing well that there are no guarantees in how many my future holds.