I Will Wave From the Shore Blowing Kisses

I just finished my three-month substitute teaching job, a brief foray back into
Middle School World. It had been two years since I retired, and I had gotten
very spoiled in my life as a free wheeling free-lancer. Monte helped me with my
decision. “When someone offers you a paying gig in this economy,” he said
instructively, “the correct response is yes. Yes, thank you. Okay? Now repeat after me: Yes, thank you.”

I could see his point.

Besides, this job pretty much had my name on it. It was a chance to teach language arts
at my old school, reconnect with kids, and be with colleagues and friends I already loved. I also found its short-term nature very reassuring. I like having my exit in sight. (I guess I’m still a temp at heart.)

So I said Yes and Thank You, and I dove in and did my best.

And if you’d asked me day by day how it was going, there are times when I would have sounded very discouraged. But right now all I can remember is the good stuff, moments of connection and creativity, shared silliness, new understanding.

On our last day in the 6th grade, we made a campfire out of orange and yellow paper and
sat around it on the floor, roasting real marshmallows to imagined perfection, sharing stories, and eating sweet, messy cinnamon rolls. I even brought in some Peeps in pretty colors like lime green and lilac, because they are among my favorite forms of seasonal decadence. We laughed a lot.

Afterwards they gave me flowers and hugs and a “Sense of Cynthia” poem, no doubt orchestrated by Linda, but executed with affection and sincerity. I promised the girls in the cooking class that I would come to their 8th grade graduation next year, and the kids in the 1960s class surprised me with a mobile made of paper cranes. I will never forget the sight of four girls trying to keep those strings of paper cranes untangled as they carried the mobile to my car in the crazy wind of a bright spring afternoon.

It brought to mind a poem I wrote about the middle school several years ago. I know it’s not a very good poem, technically speaking, but the initial inspiration came flooding back to me, and it still feels current now:

This is a place where prayer flags are sorted and stitched to a string.

Donna lovingly tends to each fraying remnant.

It is small good work, sewing and sorting in the sunlight.

Children have written:

Life is a flower.

Anything is possible.


Hope can start here, raised by patient hands,

strung in bright banners, fragile and brave.

Here we might find what we almost lost.

Anything is possible.


This is a place where scarves are knitted, where awkward fingers learn to dance,

where wood is carved, where gardens are planted, where poems are crafted,

where giggling girls sew flannel pajamas, where music erupts.

Anything is possible.


We build things here using tools and materials

and sails are secured for the voyage ahead.

(I will wave from the shore, blowing kisses.)

Anything is possible.


A confession: I tried not to get too attached, but I feel as though my heart tipped open when I wasn’t paying attention and a bunch of kids snuck in and poured new love into it.

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