Faking It

11 12 2007



Every year, my brother gets some variation of this present from my grandparents: Sports Illustrated subscription and individually wrapped free presents that come with it (i.e. clock radio, sweatshirt, t-shirt, pens, etc. with SI logo). I don’t think he really caught on until around the 7th grade or so. Now, when I see him open the gift from “Santa Kloss” (my mother’s maiden name), I have to look away. Philip will look off to the side real quick, open the gift, release a sound akin to that of a very petite dog, say “hu-huuuh, thanks,” with an especially deep voice, and then cough some as he gets up to hug Granpa who says something like, “Well, I know how much ya like yur sports,” with a proud smile at having accomplished the perfect gift. I have heard stories about “worse Christmas gifts ever” that are more singular than this, but the sight of a rather burly, rough-looking frat guy in a pink polo and pajama pants with a likely hangover and greasy hair acting like he’s excited about a black Sports Illustrated sweat shirt makes me lose it every time. He is such a classy faker.

This year’s holiday season has me thinking about how much we have to fake it this time of year. We grimace through close-talking aunts and bad casseroles, chit-chating with folks that we might see once a year (for some, that is rather too much), listening to Christmas music and wondering how hard we can hit the sauce without anyone really noticing. Once you have kids, it’s even worse. Everyone wants you to see “so-and-so” because “they never get to see her!” I’ve thought about just sending Ruthie by herself to some of these functions, since no one really cares if the parents come or not. Inviting the parents is a courtesy you pay them for having the child. What people ought to do is give you the night of instead of the complimentary invite. Ah, well. Maybe next year.
In Alabama, it is 78 degrees. I can walk outside right now, at dark, with a t-shirt on and it feels fine. Unfortunately, I’m fresh out of my holiday tank tops.

Drinking from a Fire Hydrant

4 12 2007

There is a quiet moment following the all-call for the last bus. Despite the papers that are strewn across my desk, the water bottles that litter the various surfaces of my classroom, the empty Coke cans and energy drinks that align my window sill, out of sight from the students’ hungry eyes, there is a peace, a moment of stillness. Generally, I take all of the papers and sweep them into a stack somewhere on my desk. Today, there is no room for another stack. If I were to take a picture of the catastrophe that is my December desk, you would certainly be aghast with the horror. There are notes to myself squeezed in the margins, on curled up corners of student work, on the back of my hand. Where did this chaos come from and how will I ever, ever begin to make my way to the bottom?

Fortunately, there is the promise of a fresh start with the New Year. Unfortunately, the new year feels as though it is eons away. Those eons will consist of one 30 page “article manuscript” (in which I will historicize the novel Little Women within the trajectory of the systemization of education in the late 19th century), 10 school days, 5 sets of final exams, 145 writing portfolios, an oil change, Christmas presents, Christmas cards, countless cups of coffee, one family reunion, 2 gift exchanges, at least 3 presents which will require assembly, and a new pair of shoes for Ruthie.

Last year, there was an autistic student in the 8th grade here who was out sick for several days. When he came back, he responded to inquiries about his health with, “Are you drowning in a sea of debt?” (Apparently, he had watched a lot of television during his time at home and the commercials about debt made a lasting impression on him.) Personally, I am drowning in a sea of to-do lists.