Saturday, October 20, 2012

I'll tell you what now . . .

Remember that time I watched my Mt. Carmel grandma die? And then I stood on my aunt Elaine's front porch at 2 a.m. watching three men in suits drive her down Tait Lane for the very last time, past her childhood home where she was born out of wedlock in the pink bedroom off the parlor?

Remember how at that moment my oldest child was just about to graduate from high school, my middle child was just about to get his driver's license, and my youngest child was just about to grow his mohawk out into a mullet?

Oh, and my pantry was just about to get infestated with moths that would spawn maggots that would fall from the ceiling during dinner?

And remember how as I stood there, teetering between what lay behind me and what lay ahead, I asked the Universe a stupid question?

What now? I said.

Well I should have known better. At least while my grandma had the peculiar advantage of being still within earshot, yet without physical limitations.

"I'll tell you what now," she must have chuckled to herself. "You are now going to stretch and grow and reach your full potentional so you can begin living my dream."

One advantage my grandma's childhood, spent as the town "devil's spawn," afforded her was a mental wall to push against until her delicate will became as strong as steel. That's right, she developed an iron will, with an eye single to the glory of making sure all her posterity made it into the Celestial Kingdom.

What I didn't fully grasp when I asked "what now?" was that when a child graduates from high school, she goes away, and when a child gets his driver's license, he goes away, and when a child grows his mohawk into a mullet, it goes away.

Even pantry moths eventually stop dropping on you during dinner.

But dead relatives who want you to get into the Celestial Kingdom never. go. away. Especially if they want to live their dreams vicariously through you.

In short, my Mt. Carmel grandma is finally living her dream of becoming a high school teacher. Or maybe I should say, I am finally living her dream of becoming a high school teacher.

No doubt she had to move Heaven and Earth, and realign the stars and cosmos to make this happen, (exactly one week before school started). But hey, she's connected now. She's rubbing shoulders and pulling strings with that great big principal in the sky.

That's conjecture of course. (Notice I'm using words like conjecture now that I'm a high school teacher? I never used conjecture before my grandma died, which means not only is she imposing her will on me, but she is also imposing her vocabulary on me.)

But anyways (that sounds more like me), I will not disclose the name or the location of the school I am now working for, but it rhymes with Blogwarts and it's off I-15 exit 9 and 3/4. It's the kind of school where the students wear uniforms, play Quiddich, and beg you to let them read Shakespeare for their birthdays. Fer reals. It's also the kind of school where the students think I'm funnier than Jerry Seinfield when I talk about Rhode Island.

"But Jerry Seinfield isn't even that funny," said my oldest son when I told him. But what does he know? He's never even been to Rhode Island.

Bottom line: The reason I haven't been writing in my diary is not because I have been grieving over my Mt. Carmel grandma's passing, but rather because I have been standing in front of 95 juniors and seniors for six freakin' hours a day.

If you want to know what that looks like, let me paint you a picture.

Except when I'm talking about Rhode Island, and then it looks like this:

When you first start reaching your full potential by teaching high school you can expect to have at least 1-2 panic attacks per day, particularly if you only have a week to learn everything there is to know about American history and AP language

When you're not panicking, you're sobbing into your pillow.

"I can't do this!" you wail. "I'm just a dummy!"

When you're not panicking or sobbing into your pillow, you're on your knees praying that you will get cancer ASAP.

If it be God's will, of course.

Somehow Cancer sounds like an epidural when you're standing in front of 95 juniors and seniors for six freakin' hours a day.

If I could pass on any advice to new high school teachers it would be, don't be alarmed if during the first few weeks of school you begin to covet others in new and unfamiliar ways. For instance, when you see the custodian scrubbing the bathroom toilets, you might think, "I wish I was a custodian!"

When you pass a car accident on the freeway, you might think, "Why can't I ever get into a car accident?"

When you visit your sister in the hospital, you might think, "Why does she have all the luck!?"

You honestly can't believe the inequalities of life--your sister gets to lay around all day in the hosptial while you're standing like a human dart board in front of 95 teenagers.

For a while it feels like the road to hell is paved with juniors and seniors, but then you start getting thank you notes and you get the feeling that at least you're making a difference:

Dear Mrs. Dummy--You make me feel so smart. Thank you for being so dumb. You have done wonders for my self esteem.

The hardest part about becoming a high school teacher after three years of laying around watching Project Runway and Celebrity Rehab is that you just don't feel like yourself anymore. You spend most of the day, at least from the hours of 4 a.m. to 10 p.m., being someone else--someone who reads and thinks and plans. Your mind is completely focused on the task at hand, so much so that you become smarter and dumber at the same time. One day, for instance, I ate lunch in the faculty lounge with the other high school teachers. I took my left over beef and broccoli from the fridge, warmed it up, sat down and began eating it. Three bites later I had an epiphany. I didn't bring leftover beef and broccoli, I brought leftover chicken curry.

I was eating someone else's lunch.

Maybe someday I will be living my own dream, and eating my own lunch, but for now I am just eating my own words.

There's a moral here. There's a definite moral here. Be careful who you poke in the eye in your public diary, because you just might have to walk a mile in their moccasins with a bullseye taped to your back.

Hmmmm . . . I wonder what all those things I said about my mother-in-law will taste like going down?

(Can you excuse me for a moment? I need to go write "MY MOTHER-IN-LAW ROCKS!" a hundred times on the chalk board.)