Fond Farewell


“Hey, Ms. Emerson.  It’s Katie J.  A bunch of us are talking want to get together.  What are your plans this weekend?”  This text comes mid-week in a frenetic scramble of days since our house sold.  We are having a get-rid-of-everything sale during the day, that Saturday, and even though I know I’ll be exhausted, the kids, however many a “bunch” represents, are available, so I’ll go.

Katie’s had not been an easy group—some years are like that.  Individually I loved so many of them, but together they could be volatile, unpredictable, so that year was not one of my best.  I used a lot of self-talk to recharge my attitude, to reassert the possibility of turning things around.  They constantly challenged me to bring the best I had to the table…every damn day!

In that eighth grade class a decade ago, Katie and her best friend huddled together writing and talking, lots of talking.  One student wore the same white hoodie almost every day, flipping up the hood as he sprawled on the carpet to find his muse.  One spent most of the year during my class in the bathroom; it became a joke to his peers, but continued to plague me in the years after he graduated.  These kids wrote amazing poetry and drew caricatures that mocked their passionate Language Arts teacher.  One wrote a story about losing his lucky baseball cap at a ticker tape parade for the Yankees that stayed with me (lucky because it was returned, the kindness of strangers).

Here they are on that night, minus one who had had to go home; she’d wrenched her neck and was holding it gingerly in that we do when pain accompanies each motion, but said she didn’t want to miss saying goodbye.  She, too, would be heading west, California though, “‘cuz it’s just too gray in the Pacific Northwest.”  Now these “kids” have jobs, work in the city, are finding their places, telling me stories about those friends who couldn’t make it.  I am nursing a beer a student bought me, disinterested in all but the conversation, their laughter and easy banter forged by life shared in a small community.  We are together again, and time has worked its magic.  As the “bunch” swells and the local outdoor bar becomes impossible—the noise, the crowd, the heat—we move to the end of a dock to snap this photo before heading out and on our separate ways, another memory framed, our futures before us.


6 thoughts on “Fond Farewell”

  1. How wonderful that they sought you out and were eager to catch up. We never know the impact we may have on students in the short or long term. You clearly meant a lot to them perhaps because they were so challenging.

    1. I think about that a lot. When we reconnected, it was the first time I’d seen many of them since the night of their eighth grade graduation. The student who’d spent the year in the bathroom made me cry, taking full responsibility. When I said I had not forgiven myself for being unable to reach him, he said, “No one could’ve, but look at us now. “💕

    1. We write together…it’s amazing what that will do for establishing indelible memories. They are living stories for me, and fortunately, many of them are willing to share new chapters. Did I not have the best career?

  2. This is a really special story. Thank you for sharing it with us. I love the relationships you have with your old class; it was funny to read about the things that you remember from this group. Every group seems to have to their own personality.

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