On the Day You Were Born!


The railroad track is miles away, 
    And the day is loud with voices speaking, 
Yet there isn't a train goes by all day 
    But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn't a train goes by, 
    Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming, 
But I see its cinders red on the sky, 
    And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with the friends I make, 
    And better friends I'll not be knowing; 
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take, 
    No matter where it's going.
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

This poem is in the public domain.

I first gave this poem to my good friend and colleague for her birthday several years ago after we had sojourned to distant shores.  We had already attended the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conventions together, so we knew the essentials.  Our schedules jibed pretty well.  I was an earlier-riser, awake by six a.m., showered, out the door, and downstairs reading or writing and drinking coffee before Dana awoke an hour or so later.  She had her morning space; I had mine.  I snored but not so much that it either kept her awake or awakened her prematurely.  (You’re not lying about that, are you, Dana?)  I could fall asleep with lights and television.  When I’m tired, I’m OUT!  I must admit, both of us were done in after the long, learning-filled days.  In truth, that’s only the hotel-room part of it, and while important, most of us can handle almost anyone for five days, especially if one is non-judgmental; that’s Dana.

The trickier thing by far is to find someone who enriches the going, buys in, opens herself up to experiences whether planned or spontaneous.  That is what Dana became for me as a travel companion, and a teaching one, too.  My conventions and my day-to-day classroom life were better because she was there beside me.

In 2016 we organized a trip with former students, traveling to Greece and Italy.  These were amazing kids, and the experience was incomparable.  Whether it was reenacting the original Olympic run on the track where once the Greeks had trod—despite temperatures nearing 100°—or climbing Mt. Vesuvius after a full day and late night, these young people, almost-sophomores, were game.  When we returned home, Dana wanted a “Discovery Tour Redux” but me…not so much.  Perfection can be daunting.  What we did realize, though, was that we could take our show on a wider road.  That has much more to do with Dana than me.  She is ever-intrepid while I wade in the shallows of “what-if” far too often.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 This summer she will once again travel with students, this time to Spain.  I know she will have another stunning travel adventure; she’ll make it happen.
When I asked Dana to read my letter to the Board of Education tendering my resignation, she said, “You’ve submitted it?”  I nodded, and for the very first time, I felt the pre-tears tingle.  Our partnership of seven years was dissolving; it was real.  Then I made reservations to travel to Oregon for the total eclipse, whether we were moving by August 21st or not, and told Dana.  She said, “Could I come?”  So on that momentous day, on the antipodal coast, she joined me.  Sharing this natural wonder eased the separation: she could imagine me where I would now be; she could “see” me.
We met up again in St. Louis at NCTE last November, and use technology whether email, text, or Hangouts, to stay connected.  I’m already planning to go to Houston this November less for the convention, more for the connection.  I remember that we, Dana and I, have taught kids to appreciate writing as a gift— it’s one of writing’s often overlooked dimensions.  I’ll send her the link to this blog post today, the day she returns from a cruise, tan and happy and full of new stories.  Hopefully I’ll hear some of them, for while our partnership may have dissolved, our friendship goes the distance.  Thanks, Dana.  Happy Birthday.

5 thoughts on “On the Day You Were Born!”

      1. I cannot thank you enough for one of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever received. Your words and friendship mean so much to me. Thank you for making my birthday extra special! Xoxo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: