Teacher Appreciation In The Schools

My wife teaches pre-K in a poor area. The kids come from different kinds of families including those who don't speak much English. It's challenging work. She's a natural at it, which is to say that she has been doing it so well and thoughtfully for so long that she makes it look natural, almost effortless.

On Teacher Appreciation Day some kids and families brought her gifts. Our country doesn't value children so my wife's salary is crap and she has no benefits, but kids and parents know a good teacher when they see her and bring gifts when occasions come along. It was all very nice and my wife was very appreciative.

The next day she came home with one more gift bag. Inside I saw an unopened box of Wegmans cereal. Honey? I asked, pointing to the bag, expecting a ridiculous story. Instead, I learned of grace and wonder.

One child, seeing other kids presenting my wife with gifts, was horrified not to have anything to give. She must have said as much to her family. Remember that we're talking about a four-year-old who doesn't speak much English and lives in poverty. Picture her making a fuss about how she's just got to have something to give teacher. The parent has a gift bag but no present. The parent or kid sees an unopened box of cereal and this seems right to one or both of them. Into the bag it goes and the kid comes to school thrilled to present my wife with a gift.

My wife accepts the gift bag without looking into it, gives the kid a big hug and thank you, her face the very picture of gratitude and love. I know that face and look, having had the good fortune of all that turned on me from time to time, so I know that kid felt like she was the hub of the universe, deserving all the love my wife showed her. I like sitting here imagining that moment of wonder and grace that is made all the more poignant with a four-year-old desperate to give something to her teacher.

I mean, come on. This is beautiful stuff.

Later, my wife sees the box of cereal. For just a moment her face forms a question mark, but then she realizes the significance of this gift, the beauty of it, and knows that she has been presented with something special, maybe something spectacular. This is what she does: she sees the wonder in these things though she doubts the wonder of herself that brings on such acts of kindness.

I filled a bowl with that cereal this morning. I poured milk over it and maybe a tear or two that I was blinking away because of the image of that little kid, her need to give, and the woman who glowed receiving it. God I'm in love with this world and especially in love with that woman.

A Visit & Morning Pages

My friend is here. I picked him up at the airport yesterday. We stayed up last night talking until almost two which made getting up at six a challenge but well worth it to spend time with a friend I haven't seen in a year and a half. The lack of sleep is nothing. I want to soak up every moment.

Last night, just the two of us in the living room, he said, "I love your house. It's so cozy." He's not the first to say so and each time I take it two ways. One, we make a comfortable home. Two, it's a simple kind of place. I don't mean that we have a shabby house, but no one will mistake it for fancy. It has no pretensions and feels simply like home. That's how it felt to my friend and how it feels to me.

Some of this is the effect of the furniture and decorations, but it's more that my daughters chose to sit out in the living room with their mother and me and my old college roommate. They talked and listened, joked and told stories. The comfort of this home comes from the four of us and it's palpable. Even after my wife and the girls had gone up to bed, there was the feeling of comfort and ease that comes only with a long-term friendship and a place in which two old friends can sink back into things as though no time at all has passed. No wonder we stayed up almost to two.

Four hours of sleep and off my schedule I got up, emptied the dishwasher, got laundry out of the dryer for my older daughter to have the right clothes for school, opened the blinds, turned off the furnace, and sat down to write three Morning Pages. There's a comfort there as well, though I wanted to go back to sleep or make a cup of coffee. The comfort is in doing what I do, what I have done. I sat down, uncapped the pen, and figured myself out with blue ink over three pages. I think about the blog post for the day, an idea I mapped out a couple days ago, and a note I want to write to a friend.

Less than half a page in, I'm in the groove. I have momentum and energy like rolling downhill into the sunrise.

The writing sets the table for the meal of my morning, afternoon, and evening. It creates a mood, a way of being. The results of this aren't anything I can measure or set down in exact figures try as I might. It is instead a feeling, one about which I'm as sure as of anything. The pages open me for the day, put me in a space and mode. From there the day flows.

There are things about Morning Pages which go beyond the boundaries of the written word, the ineffable effects that, like friendship, comfort, warmth, and love, must be felt perhaps without any logical understanding. Why do I do Morning Pages? Why should you? I can only begin to tell you. The rest you need to feel.

My friend said, "we have to find ways to see each other more than once a year." Why do we need to see each other? Who bother when we live so far apart? To push this defies logic. Of course it does. There is no logic in friendship, in love, in the simple need to fill three pages by hand this morning after staying up until two with my friend and then waking at six with the family. It all defies logic and works at some other level.

I'm willing to call that level what it is: magic.


I didn't seem to do much this week off from school. Usually we travel to family in Florida. Usually by the night before school I'm run-down and dreading going back. Usually there has not been much rest. Some things are different this time. I still don't want to go back to school, but that's an entirely different matter and I'm not really dreading it. We traveled but to colleges instead of warm locales. And the night before school I'm run-down but it's from a persistent cold instead of from running around.

Basically we did less and it really did feel like more.

I'm typing this from our living room couch. This is where I have spent most of this week off. I've read books, magazines, and some online stuff. I've avoided most of the news, haven't turned on the television or logged into Netflix. Other than traveling to the colleges, I haven't spent a thing.

I've also spent most of every day in the company of my family. Nothing beats that.

My mother took care of our dog while we were away and baked us cookies. My brother had a birthday and helped my daughter find props for a photo shoot. My wife took care of me. My daughters made me smile. The dog was her always lovely self. The cats took turns lying on me to make me feel better.

Less really is more. This is what I'm trying to remember. This is what I'm trying again, over and over, to learn.

The culture keeps selling more. The soul needs less.

At Home

Home from school I opened the door to find our dog yodeling from the top of the basement stairs. I stood shaking my head at an animal who has no sense of decorum. Her yodel is a high-pitched yelp and whine that involves her tail wagging her body. She curls her snout into what we call the horrible smile, a kind of baring her teeth without snarling. Her tongue lolls out of her mouth and she bobs her head up and down, sneezing like she's having a seizure. It's some greeting.

My part is to yell in a high voice, "it's you!" which is what I imagine she's saying over and over. "Oh my god, it's you!" I tell her while clambering upstairs. I stop near the top of the stairs and take her head in my hands for a good shake. Sometimes she lets me come into the kitchen but times like today she really, really needs to show me exactly how much love she has for me and I stay on the steps accepting it.

For some reason I was in the mood to make our dinner of roasted vegetables and cheesy egg cups. Chopping vegetables is clear and simple, worthwhile and rewarding. Things my school work often isn't. Vegetables almost never argue back or tell me suck my dick, nigger! Eggs crack without slamming fists into the lockers saying, fuck this place! I washed and sliced cauliflower, rinsed and quartered brussel sprouts, peeled and diced carrots and potatoes, and threw in a bowl of leftover chopped leaks. When I doused all that with olive oil, salt, and pepper, it allowed me to massage it together, spread it on a cookie sheet, and slip it without fuss into a 425 oven for half an hour. Even the clean-up was easy work with results about which I could feel good.

While I cooked, my wife was online at the kitchen table finding jobs to which I might apply. She cast the net wide, doing work I dislike and feel inadequate in doing. I told her, "This is awfully nice of you." She told me it was nothing and that she was happy to do something to help. As if she doesn't help me pretty much every day of the twenty-seven years we've been in love. When she was engrossed in the computer screen, I took the opportunity to stare at her, wondering how someone grows lovelier each day and is devoted to me. Then I decided to accept it, my good fortune, and felt like the dog standing atop the stairs wagging her whole body. I thought, "it's you! Oh my god, it's you!"

Our younger daughter came into the kitchen dressed up in character. She twirled and smiled, glowed really with happiness and security, knowing no one in the kitchen would find her anything but wondrous. When my wife questioned part of her look she consulted the book from which the character springs and read a section to us, losing herself in giggling. She left me smiling as she said that she had better get ready for dance, something she does mostly as herself rather than in cosplay regalia.

The cat wanting to get in on the action jumped onto a chair near where the dog was lying and swatted at her without baring her claws. "Come on! Let's brawl!" The dog, alarmed by any interaction with the cat stood up wagging her tail and retreated to another room. The cat rolled on her back and stretched her paw through the back of the chair for the hell of it. It looked like it felt good that stretch and roll.

Who knows where the other cat was? She's mysterious until it's time for food.

Our older daughter joined us for dinner while her sister was at dance. It took three times of us asking but she came up with something to tell us about her day at school — a screw-up with the metal detector and entry system that had them all late for first period. I watched her eat three servings of roasted vegetables, two pieces of toast with jam, and four egg and cheese cups. When my wife mentioned how much she had eaten our girl replied, "I'm hungry" in a tiny-kid's voice straight out of her first three years. She then told how she and her friend swam 4,000 yards though swim season has been over for months. Like a shark, she's the perfect swimming and eating machine, and one long, lean muscle.

It's evening now. Our younger girl is still at dance. Our older girl is rubbing the dog's belly and criticizing her for being lackadaisical. My wife is on the couch still looking at jobs for me and for her. The cat is on the foot stool not attacking anything. Who knows where the other cat is? I have a record on the turntable and these words coming out of my fingertips like magic lightning. The house is warm and were it in my power I would never, ever leave this place, these animals, and most of all these people. What with all that and the writing, I can't imagine what else I might ever need.