In 9 more days, I will no longer be a teacher in the South Bronx.
I’m not sure what to do with that. I’m not sure how to say goodbye to a classroom that I’ve spent more time in than my NYC apartment. I’m not sure how to say goodbye to the colleagues and friends who have made me laugh (oh have they made me laugh) and have been there for my cries. I’m not sure how to say goodbye to a year where I was not my best.
As a kid (ok,and even now) I can’t leave something if I’m not on top. I can’t stop a game if I’m loosing.I can’t go inside unless I make the last basket (and I will stay until I do) and I can’t go to bed after watching a sad movie. (I turn on The Office and fall asleep to that. No lie.) I simply cannot end when I’m down. I’m not sure how it works with my heart.
Speaking of heart, mine is currently being broken by Trail of Crumbs, a memoir by Kim Sunee. It is a written journey of hunger, love, and her search for a sense of home. My only problem has been that the beautiful narrative is often interrupted by recipes for French cuisine. It annoyed me. Until yesterday.
As a teacher of reading, I tell my students to always look at the little things that may later be a crucial part of the story. I hadn’t even considered this! If Kim Sunee can build sentences that overwhelm my soul, then I have to believe she hasn’t placed these recipes in for mere garnish. So, I thumbed through the recipes trying to imagine what they might be telling me. It took 2 seconds. This is what I found:
1. Cook first 4 ingredients…set aside and let cool.
2. Beat sour creme mixture…
3. Punch dough down and divide in half…
4. Roll each dough rectangle…
5. Bake, uncovered. . . Let cool. . .
So what did I find? My last year of life in a nutshell.
Beat…Punch… Roll… These words have a familiar ring in my heart because it, too, has been beaten, punched, and rolled over.
Ending a year where I’ve felt more failure than success is a hard year to end. I’ve even found myself building last-minute relationships with kids in my school who aren’t even my students. Is it a selfish attempt to make 1 more difference? To make up for what I didn’t do for others while I still had a chance? Maybe. I suppose I’m trying to wring out what’s left of myself in hopes that some good will come.
But this oddly placed recipe reminds me of something. After the beating, rolling, punching, and extreme heat, you’re left with a beautiful and pleasing result. It’s all part of 1 whole. What comes before the end is necessary. I needed this year to teach me… to show me how to do what I thought I couldn’t. To love kids who didn’t love me back.
Will I be ending “on top?” No. But I truly believe in some ways I’m still ending in some kind of beauty. And there is healing in that.
And so I end with a poem. It’s a healing song by the Navajo Indians. So in my uncertainty of how to end a year, I end with the hope of the sense of restoration and beauty.
Restore my feet for me.
Restore my legs for me.
Restore my body for me.
Restore my mind for me.
You have taken it away for me.
Far off it has gone.
Happily I recover.
Happily my interior becomes cool.
Happily I go forth.
My interior feeling cool, may I walk.
No longer sore, may I walk.
Impervious to pain, may I walk.
With lively feeling may I walk.
As it used to be long ago, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Happily, with abundant dark clouds, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant showers, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant plants, may I walk.
Happily, on a trail of pollen, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Being as it used to be long ago, may I walk.
May it be beautiful before me
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
With it be beautiful all around me.
In beauty it is finished.