there was intent, today: intent to attend a faculty gathering at BCC, intent to pick blueberries, intent to avoid potato chips. none of these worked out too well. the BCC gathering was on my google calendar, but i was not in the car dressed like a faculty member at 8:30 this morning, so that didn't happen. stone hill, my new favorite pick-your-own blueberries patch near nineveh, is closed on thursdays now, which i found out when i reached the turn for route 235 off of route 7 and saw their cardboard sign with the new schedule.
i redeemed the morning with a visit to the enchanted garden, where sherry and i talked over blood pressure medicines and other topics. i drove down route 79 with a stop at john's sister's house to drop off table and keg tub, borrowed for the recent wedding celebration. a little further down route 79 i was able to purchase, as planned, the six 80-pound bags of ready-mix concrete, pulling my camry a little closer to the road surface even when carefully loaded. i intended to drive straight home, but i had to pass by the middle school. i just couldn't do it without stopping in to see "my" classroom.
there have been breaks in my 30-year career before; for example, those years when there was a pink slip or a reduction-in-force because of population changes, and i took a job editing at singer-link or running the BCC tutoring program. i don't remember much about the fall after my first son was born (everything was a blur that year); i went back to work when he was one. nate was born in early september so the new school year feeling was replaced by "when the hell am i going to have this baby i feel like an enormous cow." once again, i went back to work when he was one. after that year, i stayed home for some years, during which my sons started going off to school in september. my love for them eclipsed my september longing for tile flooring and chalk dust...until the year i was called into service at the middle school.
that august, i spent time in my new classroom whenever i could arrange it. august was a month of blue skies, crisp nights, and unpacking boxes, rearranging books, creating new materials to use. for sixteen years, then, i looked at august as the time i got to spend in my quiet classroom preparing for it to be a noisy, busy place, where students read quietly, discussed loudly, and wrote. my classroom moved twice after that, but the actual room did not matter. august was still for re-thinking tables, chairs, bookshelves, and ideas.
so how could i drive past the school this morning, when for sixteen years i had spent hours there on warm august days? in fact, i drove past and then turned around. i pulled into the north end of the driveway and parked in my usual spot at the very end of the line. i noticed that the cafeteria hall door was open for some maintenance activity, so i snuck in there and up the stairs to room 234. it was locked, but i could look in the door and see that my successor had been very busy. bright crates of books lined the same wall where i had put my old wooden bookshelves. i had left her most of my 300-book classroom library; i was glad she was using it. there were the tables with tennis balls on the legs to protect the floor. there were the opened boxes of supplies i had had to order way back in december, before i knew i was going on a leave of absence.
i didn't get teary-eyed, though, as i gazed on the media projector attached to the ceiling (i had only had a year or so to play with the smart board) or the changes she had made to the front corner, or the tall file cabinet she had put behind the door. i thought i would, but i was really just excited for her to have her own classroom now. i thought of my consultant teacher. at her room, just down the stairs, her keys were still in the lock, so i knew she was around. when i found her, we caught up on summer news, avoiding the knowledge we both dreaded - that we had only gotten to work together those two years.
i know she will do a good job co-teaching with the new ELA teacher, and i know that i will visit other times and renew the friendships that i have enjoyed. former students will still say hello to me at the giant or on facebook. i will find other tile floors to haunt, other chalk dust and marker fumes to inhale in my new role as doctoral student and adjunct instructor.