Fall Break has arrived for many of my former students and, steadily, the halls in the school have been congested with alum coming back on a pilgrimage to see their former teachers, walk the halls just one more time, see how far they have come because the halls no longer go to the same places that the students remember.
I can only imagine how different everything feels when the students return and realize that the old rules no longer apply but a whole new set of rules are now hanging over their heads.
I never went back to my old high schools. For the first three years, I attended a high school in the Washington DC area. In the summer before my senior year, my parents and I moved to Germany where I finished off high school in a Department of Defense Dependent School. Once I graduated, I might have returned to the base where my school was located once…possibly twice. Within two years of graduating, the entire base and all the buildings were handed over to the Germans.
If I even had a desire to return to my old school and see my old teachers, that was quickly nixed for me. Anyone I might have known were gone, and this was well before the day and age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even this wonderful WordPress that I use to pen my thoughts.
I could have gone back to my old high school in DC. Most of the teachers I knew (maybe all of them) had to have stayed for at least a couple of years after I left. But the move to Germany pretty much severed my ties with most of the people I had known. As much as I wanted to stay in touch with them, the natural sense of distance that couldn’t be shortened by snail-mail and long distance phone calls frayed those connections.
I couldn’t go to any high school reunion. The high school people with whom I might have forged the strongest ties due to length of time, well I wasn’t part of their graduating class. And even if I had wanted to attend, too many years had passed for me to comfortably walk under balloon arches and welcome back signs. I know that the alum from my high school in Germany will convene once a year at some “central” location. But, of those people with whom I graduated, I have kept in touch with one.
No, I don’t go back to my old schools.
I barely return to my old college.
I don’t even own a single piece of college-wear. And, in some respects, I really don’t know that I want to own any college clothing, at least, not at this point. Once the Boy starts college/university, then I’ll proudly wear something from his school. But, for now, I am a graduate without a school.
For the last couple of weeks, former students have been visiting and I feel the old tug of memories yank at me. These are my babies, my heart sings. They have come home. And I am so happy to see them as they walk through my door. They all look taller, more mature. Experience has fallen into their eyes; the old naiveté is gone and I sometimes miss seeing it.
These are the students who have started walking their own, independent paths and some of them have stumbled. Others are finding new stepping stones and preparing to walk new paths, and I am so proud of them.
I still find myself missing my seniors. I LOVE my sophomores. They are wonderful and they are endearing and they are precious. I love how eagerly they soak up information, how quickly they want to learn and to participate. Today, we compared and contrasted the Knight against the Prioress and the Pardoner from The Canterbury Tales. We examined the satire and commentary Chaucer was making against the society. It was wonderful. Give them a question and they will spin answers around the room faster than I can even think of another question.
But I still miss my seniors. And when former students like Kyra or Brett or Simone or Kylah walk into my room and hug me, I feel it. That sense of slight emptiness.
And I feel horribly guilty because I really do LOVE my sophomores. I have no reason to complain and if I did, I would be stupid.
Seniors are such an incredible group (I really am not complaining about my sophomores. No comma but’s here. Just read me out). They are on the cusp of another part of their life and they can feel that beckoning siren singing to them and they are so ready to chase the will o’ the wisp. And I am there, walking with them, guiding them to the gate entrance and I love watching them walk up to the gate, rest their hands on the post, turn and look at me, their eyes filled with questions.
Can I go? Am I ready?
And I raise my hands, palm towards them, and wave them on.
Go. Have fun. Come home if you need to be reminded of how much you are loved and how valuable you are.
And they go. And I do cry sometimes because they were in my life for a precious nine months (yup, about the length of a pregnancy…I personally love the symbolism) before I have to relinquish my grip on them and send them out to the world.
It meant the world to me when Kyra visited me a couple of weeks ago. She just randomly came in my room and reminded me of my good-bye speech in which I had told the students that if they ever needed to talk, if they ever needed the reassurance that they were wonderful to come and talk to me and I would remind them of their intrinsic value. And there she was.
“You said that I could always come back,” she said.
And she was right. And I was over-joyed that she walked through my door so that I could hug her one more time and just remind her of how very loved she is. Not was. Is. And will be.
And today, my adopted son Brett came home. And we talked for ninety minutes. About life, about classes, about baseball and roommates and teachers (oh my!). And I asked him my favorite (and most nerve-wracking) question: Did I prepare you?
My arms shot up in the air, looking like I was doing the touchdown sign. Nope. I hate football.
That’s my triumphant YES! pose. I am victorious. I have won. I have done something right.
And after forty plus years of self-doubt and self-questioning, a little triumphant YES posing is all right with me.
I know that in three years from now, my current crop of sophomores will be coming home to me and their other teachers. And that is when the powerful pull of nostalgia might bring me back to this post. Because I love them now. And I will love them then. Love for a student doesn’t end. Because they will always be, in one way-shape-form-or-another, my children.
My former seniors call me “Mama Curran,” and it breaks my heart as much as it warms my heart. Because I love those kids. Because they are so friggin’ amazing and I’m so friggin’ blessed to have them in my life.
My sophomores call me “Mrs. Curran.” But some have taken to calling me “Nana Curran.” Which is all right because their teacher from last year is “Mama Kline” and I can’t take her place.
I have to admit. I prefer Mama. It feels good. But I can be just as good a Nana. I just have to change the consonants in my mind.
By the way, welcome home my beloved children. I told you the door was always open. And it is. And it always will be. Come home when you need me. Come home when you just want a hug. And be nice to your little brothers and sisters. They are good to me and stand with you in my heart.