The Twice-Lived Life

“It is with a heavy heart that I share…” When an email subject line begins this way and comes from my principal, I steel myself before I open it. Yesterday was no different. Even though I no longer reside in the community where I taught for 26 years, I am still deeply a member of the community because I am teaching the students who do still live there.

Usually these missives contain news of a parent of one of my colleague’s death—and by no means do I minimize that loss—but when the death is a student’s, I am devastated. This is not the way life is supposed to go. No matter who the child, the loss is personal and universal. I have lost students before; it never gets easier. All that hopefulness…

A student from the Class of 2016, the ’15-’16 school year, whom I remember vividly, you know how some of them are, sending sparks of light into the world, a center-stage smiler, Olivia, is gone—suddenly. I sit in shock letting it sink in, all those damn questions about why, and why, and why. No. Answers.

As the day unfolds, I open another email, the one for the Slice of Life Challenge. Oh, my gosh, in all the activity lately, I’ve forgotten to register. Halfway through there is a question about having our students participate, and now that I’ve come out of retirement and have “my” students, I realize I want to resuscitate my former Edublog. I want my students to challenge themselves as “Slicers” and blog for an audience of their peers.

I open my that dormant space, not remembering the last class to truly engage with this writing medium and scan. Turns out the last class to blog from our class blog hub was 2015-16—Olivia’s class. And there’s “Olivia’s Blog” listed in the roll. And Olivia, a part of her that I was lucky to know, lives there:

“After researching and accomplishing all different kinds of unique bracelets, I have learned more about the techniques, strategy’s, and overall how to make certain intricate bracelets. So far I learned the…

  • fishtail
  • chevron
  • striped
  • heart

and there’s more to come but will be done after the project is over. ” This from her post at the end of her 20% Time Project.

And this:”Out of all the categories on the checklist, one of the highest points I exceeded above is persistence. I kept at the bracelets even when I messed up.”

As I read through the posts tracking our year together, I relive our relationship. It is a bittersweet journey, but writing, writing allows that. Olivia will always be alive on these pages. For that I’m grateful. 

(Thanks to the late Donald Murray for this title.)

Not-So-Super Bowl, and Yet

Oh, February Break is coming, and despite the December holiday still lingering in my rearview, I—and I venture to say my students—will welcome the respite. I, if only to plan for those six unbroken school weeks that await—they, because they’re kids!

And the first Sunday will feature Superbowl LV . LV, I think of it as text-talk for love, and hope that’s a harbinger for 2021. Make no mistake, my husband and I are not football fans. My father-in-law plunked himself in front of the television on the weekend for the games, as to a much lesser degree did my father. My mom loved the ’49ers—a connection that came from her love of San Francisco more than anything else.

When our son was small, I passed that to him—and he caught it. Oh, my gosh! We would watch games together in New Jersey; I felt like I was gently indoctrinating him to the “West is best” philosophy. (And it took, a story for another post.) At one point I even bought “Dish,” so we could watch the Niners play blacked-out contests.

Last year, if you follow the game at all, you know “our” team, went to the Bowl. But it was not a year of love, was it? The Chiefs trounced San Francisco, and I was hosting my wonderful neighbors and friends to tapas while we watched the red and gold go from victory to defeat.

What I did not know then is that my great friend whose support of the Chiefs piqued me (embarrassingly) would soon be diagnosed with lung cancer. The ’49ers would not find any gold that year, but goal posts would come to mean so very little. And our world would close tight its neighborly doors; no party reprise for 2021.

And yet…Amanda Gorman will perform a poem, yes folks, a poem at the Super Bowl (chills course through me). This is a GOLDEN time for poetry—and I dare hope for what’s coming. Though my good friends and I will be physically apart, we remain close; thank the resilient, enduring bonds of friendship, and my son and his wife will be moving here from New Orleans. (The Saints may have been defeated, but this is an unequivocal WIN for us.)

When we gather in front of various screens, yet again, for this 60th contest, I still will be celebrating…LV.