Folding Moments into Words


In high school, I used to hate Wednesday.  This would be the night I would sit at my desk in front of my window and write poetry and draw pictures and stare at my reflection that blended into the darkness and melted into the single light of my neighbor’s street lamp across the street.

Wednesday nights were the nights of bad poetry and missed homework assignments and feeling that sense of doldrums.  I wasn’t a great student and had no love of learning.

It’s kind of funny how much things have changed.

It’s kind of funny how little things have changed.

I managed to get through some of my backlog of grading.  I managed to finish processing 235 notes from “parents” (sorry, I know that at least half of the notes are horrible forgeries but I don’t have the time to figure out which) so the seniors can leave early for prom on Friday.  I managed to wake up long enough to get work knocked out.

Today was a day of problem-solution analysis in which my students had to analyze and attempt to solve problems that exist within the school.  Today, I learned how to say the names of at least 180 seniors.  The graduating class is 426.  I’m close to half way there.  I can do this.

I can do this.

I read the names at graduation.  And I actually love doing it, but it scares the world out of me.  Stage fright is killer.  If you were to see me at graduation, you would notice that my right hand has a death grip on the podium.  This keeps me from shaking.  My left hand is deliberately poised at the corner to accept the card with the student’s name on it.  I look at nothing else.  Maybe the student.  Beyond that, I am completely focused on the names and reading them correctly.

Today, I have been folding little moments into origami words, sculpting memories into abstractly-tactile figures that I carry in my pocket.  A few words, shove them deep into the seam of my pocket, possibly let the experiences mingle with the fuzz and lint trapped in there.

Today, I thought about retirement.  Another round of expectations are being handed down, expectations that are clearly to be completed outside contract hours and it’s enough for me to start wondering if maybe I’m just getting too old for this.  And then I realize that I might not be marketable outside my career and I feel this horrible sense of entrapment.

Today, I held a student while she wept.  We sat on the floor in the hallway, our backs to the wall, and she sobbed and I held her and told her that my love for her was as large as the universe, always expanding.  And I meant it then and I mean it now.  This young woman is a delightful individual who is facing challenges and struggles and feels incredibly alone.  And though I don’t know what it means to be her and to walk in the shadows of her experiences, I know enough of pain to respect the reality of her grief.  And that sometimes just hugging someone is enough to give a brief respite from the powerful surge of sadness.

I nipped and tucked at a student’s anxiety over the cruelty in the world.  We are reading the book 102 Minutes and the student was frustrated that the south tower was not immediately evacuated.  She saw the needless loss of life, the needless catastrophic destruction and sat paralyzed at her desk as she tried to strip away the reality and find a nugget of hope.

But when looking backwards at 9/11, the reality stands out in sharp contrast against the dreams of “I would’s” and the wishes that are substantial as the flecks of dust hanging suspended in the sunlight.  The student sat with her hands on her lap, fidgeting, trying to find her normal sense of joy and optimism and, instead, plastered superficial smiles on her face.

I wanted to fold up her anxiety, do a squash fold on her unhappiness and turn it into a flower.  Write poetry on the petals.  Twist a stem of my best wishes and give her something to hold that will remind her that her goodness is more powerful than any darkness that might step into her world.

But I had to accept her emotions and show her that her emotions are just and normal and understandable.  I had to show her that what she was feeling was logical and realistic when looking at a world that lives in the constant aftershocks of terrorism, even those thwarted attempts register on our emotional seismographs.

I am reclining in my bed and releasing the tension of the day.  I am folding up the frustrations of another “five minutes of work” and bending them into an origami crane, a symbol of good luck.  I don’t know that the politicians who rule my world understand the nature of what I am trying to do.  I don’t know that they are aware of the work load we already experience and that they will listen to anything I might say.

Regardless, I have folded and creased this day, reinforced the edges of the fold, tucked edges into themselves.  Lined up each moment, a collection of happiness of sadness of exhaustion that bleeds into numbness.  Seen the tendrils of good luck leaking into my skin.

Written poetry when I meant to blog.  Held a voice and went to sleep.

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