And We’re Back

IMG_8792We’re back to school, that is, after a long, hard summer of RVs, fake Disney trips, and backyard snakes.

Yeah, you heard me. After only one snake in three years of living here, we’ve now had two in a matter of three weeks. I think the second one was also non-poisonous, but as I’ve mentioned, I don’t do snakes.

This is also why I lumped it in with the two other biggest memories of the summer of 2014.

At any rate, the dramas of summer are long gone, and we’re back to most of our school year routines. In the small people’s world, my oldest child is now in middle school, which has prompted me to contemplate whether my sobriquet for my children has run its course. I suppose I could say something like “the small people and the middle schooler,” but it lacks brevity and in a mere two years, it would have to be altered yet again, this time to “the middle schoolers and the small person.” With this nomenclature, the following year would get downright convoluted (i.e., the high schooler, the middle schooler, and the small person). It reminds me of a young couples group we were in at our church in Chicago where almost everyone was in their thirties. This left the twenty-somethings of the church without a name, so we “young couples” began brainstorming for a new name so that we could pass on the torch. We were ultimately unsuccessful, and the only name idea I remember was The Thirty-Somethings Plus Bob*. Our dear, sweet “Bob” was forty. And as many others were slated to reach that decade soon as well, the name would have become a quagmire of verbiage.

When you throw in the fact that even Baby-Girl, my youngest, is in second grade, I can’t harbor any delusions that I’m still the mother of “small people.” Baby-Girl is physically small for her age, so I can still carry her the way some mothers carry their preschoolers. But when she comes home saying things like, “Mom, just so you know, I’m not in love with anybody. I just want to focus on my friends,” it’s hard not to see the writing on the wall of my geriatric future. Also, the fact that both my sons can now carry me (albeit briefly) is just one more sign of the times.

In my professional world, as with every year I’ve taught, my classes and duties have altered a bit. I’m continuing with ninth grade English but trading seventh grade English for seventh grade honors English, and I’ll be directing the new writing lab at our school. In terms of curriculum, for those of you who want to know, my ninth graders just started To Kill a Mockingbird and my seventh graders just finished The Hobbit, a book they read most of over the summer.

In fact, I just gave my seventh graders a test on The Hobbit yesterday, and in a quotation section of the test, they had to identify the speaker, the context, and the significance of several quotations, including the following one: “It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.”

Here, Bilbo is standing in a tunnel inside the Lonely Mountain, where the great dragon Smaug is presumably hoarding the treasure Bilbo has been hired to return to its previous owners, the dwarves. Half-a-year’s worth of danger and discomfort and doubt on the road leading away from the Shire and toward the Lonely Mountain has, in one sense, all led up to this moment where he must decide if he will really attempt what he’s been commissioned to do. The moment is charged not just with raw fear and bravery, but also with uncertainty, and ultimately, with choice.

I’ve never taught a middle school honors class, and I’ve never started a writing lab. I’ve never had a child of my own in middle school, and I’ve never had a serious conversation about “relationships” with my daughter.

Until now.

True, I’d rather face all of these than the potential of a real fire-breathing dragon. And certainly I have before and will again face things that require far more bravery than these do. But in a small way, it is a tunnel moment for us, with challenges a step beyond our view.

* Note: Name has been changed to protect Ken’s identity

Leave a Reply