You had a lot of fun with the A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words challenge, and we had a lot of fun reading your entries – so let’s go for Round Two. Your challenge this week is to write a post based on this picture:
REM sings a song about leaving New York and it reminds me of you. Let me try that again: it reminds me of me, how I was heart sick to leave you the summer of 2002. As the train pulled away and you waved in that exuberant fashion with your long arms I felt my heart rip.
Yuck, that sounds like it came out of one of my love sick student’s notebook, all sappy and weak. You understand, words can only say so much. The truth is that you taught me that love can physically hurt like hell. But that’s not entirely fair. Looking back, man was I pathetic that summer. I would have done better to pay attention to my wealthy, good-for-nothing suitors instead of pining over you. People tell me I would have had more fun. Mostly I remember the excruciating good-byes.
This picture reminds me of walking the streets of New York City, summer days in Ann Arbor when we weren’t working opposite shifts, our tragic talks at Baw Beese Lake, and the time you took me to the candy store in quaint Concord. Those were the good times. If we had ever made it out of the country, I imagine someone could have snapped this picture of us. This, in turn, reminds me of a seed you planted, a seed whose roots strengthened while I tended to other matters.
You encouraged me, you see, as much as, or more than, you hurt me. You were the first to encourage me to think about teaching. I’m glad I waited to do so because the wait, the disappointments, and the miles I put on my old Mystique before picking up a grade book all helped make me a better teacher. They also help to keep me in the game.
We would talk periodically about starting an alternative, classical school on an old farm like the one your mom had. How I remember that rambling farm house, the one your dad worried I was going to burn down because it had to snow the June day of your grandmother’s funeral. Our relationship wasn’t clear to anyone at the time, so I had to stay behind, stupefied by the circumstances, while the rest of you drove down to the next state to mourn for the matriarch of your large Italian family. The only source of heat was a log stove. I hadn’t been to camp in three years, so my fire making skills left something to be desired. I was desiring some heat when your mom’s friend came by to feed the horses, thank God.
I said that more than a few times in those forty-eight hours after semester finals because at one o’clock in the morning, about five hours after learning somewhere in Ohio about your grandmother, I thought we might be attending our own funerals. I woke with a start to you swerving off the road; thus began my crash course in driving a manual, but on account of the sticky gears we had to manage together. “1-2-3-shift,” you’d mumble in your sleep and shift gears as if in a dream. Wide awake now, my heart pounding, I steered us down unlit, remote, and totally foreign highways and worked the pedals like you had coached me in our two minute lesson. I can’t think of that house without these memories and many others like them. How did we manage to squeeze so many adventures into so little time?
In our musings about our future school you let me enjoy my romance with Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott, and you never objected to my vision of the farm teeming with boys. Boys only. It was a beautiful dream to which I added puddle ducks because of a black and white photo you showed me on the computer one Sunday morning over French pressed coffee. I was going to teach English, you were going to teach Latin, together we would lay out the History of the world, but Philosophy was all yours. We never talked about the sciences, I suspect, because we expected the natural course of the farm to teach the essentials. Perhaps you had someone from college already picked out. It was an undeveloped dream at best.
When I pulled away from you for the last time, my car loaded down to the ground, I thought I was driving away from that dream as well. What was I thinking?
I probably wasn’t thinking much at all during that episode in my life and a couple years later I became a mother. Mothering made me slightly demented, but after all these years I finally remember, my dream of a school where boys can be boys and grow up to be gentlemen is not new to me. What am I waiting for?