One of the nice things about moving all over creation and back is that I know how to consolidate. I'm excellent at sorting, stacking, and packing up. For most teachers I know, it would take several weeks to pack up their classroom if they were taking a leave from their profession for an indefinite period of time. For me, it only took a couple of hours this afternoon.
Then I got home, ready with an industrial-sized plastic bin to hold my books et al, thinking I would just do what I always do. Label. Organize. Snap shut. But it was so much more than that, because this book fell to the top of the stack, cluttered among my Cliff's notes (yes, teachers use them on occasion):
Of Mice and Men-- the very first book I ever taught. I still had all my cryptic first-year teacher notes in it, long green lines down the page that said simply 'setting' or 'characterization'. I have taught that book at least nine times in the last seven years, and I still cry at the end. George and Lennie maintain a special place in my heart to this day.
And then I moved on to this stack:A haphazard assortment of the hardest book I ever taught (The Inferno), my favorite book in the whole wide world to teach (Romeo and Juliet), and my go-to guide for modern poetry by Frances Mayes. Not to mention the book I used the most when it came to grammar and punctuation (The Elements of Style), and the copy of Hamlet I read over and over on the beach in Vietnam before going back to China to teach it. It still had water marks on the corners.
Then there were the movies:And these were just the ones with cases. My History Channel documentary I use before teaching Greek mythology. My Lord of the Flies movie from the early nineties that I use purely for comedy's sake. To Kill a Mockingbird, dubbed in Chinese. DVDs of class plays of Macbeth and Twelve Angry Men.
Which was topped off with this:
My teaching portfolio. Seven years of pastiches (thank you, Sylvia Plath and Wilfred Owen), creative writing samples, IB Oral Commentary sample prompts, and AP-style essays on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It is covered on both sides by cards from students, words about my impact on their lives that cannot be given a dollar sign. And this:The sticker that was outside my classroom door for three years in China, one I can't quite explain why I had there, but remains a fantastic conversation piece to this day.
All these things, all packed up, snapped and clicked shut in between other plastic boxes of Christmas ornaments and wedding cards:Because this is where it needs to be, for now. But a woman in her thirties can still take pause amid the transition. She might even find herself wishing her friends a good rest, until it's time to come out and play again.