The Call at the Door: 10:35 pm

I have a little book in front of me titled The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing. It’s written by Monica Wood, and and I got it because a fiction professor told me it would help me get in the mind of a fiction writer. I’m supposed to be writing fiction; in fact, by the end of next summer, I will, let me say that again, I will have a young adult novel completed. (That doesn’t mean I’ll be published. That’s a whole bag of Pandora’s worms!) Okay, let’s stick to what we’re doing here. The Pocket Muse has unusual ideas for writing starts, so honestly, I just opened the book and there it was:

“An unwanted stranger comes to your door.”

This is the third year living in the city, so I have had election people, people who want me to change my electricity supplier, people who are lost, the plumbers, and then a few nights ago, as I sat cutting out alphabet letters for my students, someone jerked my front screen door open. This happened behind my back, literally, so I jumped and had that front door unbolted because I saw it was a kid.

I just caught the back of her as she ran up the street cackling, but I got enough of a look to realize it was one of my former students, one I used to mentor, one who left and came back when she was caught in a fight on Market Street, (and winning, apparently). I knew she’d try again, so I opened my front door, put a mean teacher look on my face, and there she was.

Marta.

“Ah, hahahaha!” she hollered, and off she went.

(Truthfully, I was glad to see she’s gotten braces.)

Sadly, her hair was a mess, as though she hadn’t washed it in days and because I have a strong front porch light, I could see her eyes were big as dark moons.

I shook my head. Drugs. Then I locked my screen and front doors and went to bed.

Marta wasn’t unwelcome, but there was nothing I could do for her. Unless she came back. I’m waiting.

Today is the Birthday I Don’t Want

I know. Birthdays are inevitable, and I just turned 63 today. This year is significant for me because my grandma Lilly died at 63, and I keep thinking about her. I was twelve years old when she died very suddenly, but I thought her age was old. I was young, still a kid with a lot of life to face ahead of me, and 63 sounded a world, a universe away from where I stood. I was just beginning to feel the signs of depression apart from Lilly’s death, and four years later, I would be in the grip of an illness, no one could either define nor understand. Including me.

I wonder if Lilly hadn’t died then, would I still have had depression tighten its tentacles around my brain? Or not? That’s not really fair. No one really knows why some people contract illnesses, especially mental ones. And I know it is normal to be depressed at times in our lives and that sadness is inevitable. It’s just that the depression I have is not “sadness.” It’s part of my life, my view on the world. Some days I can see pretty, and some days I cannot. I’m not writing for anyone to feel sorry for me. In fact, I could have had much worse happen to my brain.

Let me tell you about a student I had who always struggled to learn but tried anyway. I used to work with him on almost every subject, every school day. But then, one day, he walked into my office to work, and he was different. He spoke differently, and it was almost as if his personality had changed. As I talked with him, I realized something was very wrong. And then he looked me straight in the eye and said,

“Miss, you know when I told you I talk to God?”

“Yes,”

“Well, now I am God!”

I tried to stay calm. It was as though all the air had been sucked out of that little room when he said that. I don’t remember what I said next, but I tried to continue his English lesson as usual. I thought he was joking around, but the next day, he told me again, this time, leaning back in his seat, “Miss, I am God.”

Very soon, the counselors got involved and everyone else who deals with this sort of thing in the school pipeline. In a few days, we got a verdict.

Schizophrenia.

That’s worse than depression. I think.

 

I’m Not Seeing Pretty Today.

Today is June 13, 2018, and it was the last day of my teaching career which began in the fall of 1993. I had just graduated from Millersville University with a master’s in English, and I headed to the community college to teach a night class. I was lucky enough to get one class a semester to teach, but then I literally ran into the assistant head of a girls’ school at our daughters’ day care, and she was looking for ESL teacher. Not a lot of people in the United States were teaching English as a Second Language; in fact, there was no degree possible.

I was asked if I thought I could handle five girls from Korea who had just arrived and needed a teacher because they could only speak a little English.

“Sure!” my dumbass said. I had a little experience and fortunately had taken a lot of linguistic classes, so I knew how the language worked. Yeah. Me. Call Me Super English!

Sixteen years later, I had written the ESL curriculum for the girls’ school which had blossomed into a rose garden of second language speakers. I developed at least ten different year-long programs, plus testing preparation for students from all over the world. Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal Romania, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador, and more. I was their “English Mama,” because these girls were so far from home, I served many roles.

I had planned to stay at the school and retire, but life throws us egg rolls sometimes, and I ended up teaching some of the city students in a different kind of school. I stayed nine years until ESL had evolved so much that teaching requirements changed. It happens!

I am thinking I must have had thousands of students cross my path! I was so hopeful, so determined, but it is hard for me to think this September will be the first one since 1990  that I have not been in school, either as a student or a teacher. Oh, it’s not sad. I am writing and continuing grad classes and finding new rainbows to climb.

I toast all my students! May all your dreams come true. (And I hope you know the difference between “its” and “it’s.” At least that.)