Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Spoils of Summer

Had a wonderful weekend.  Been spending the time catching up with old friends-- and making new ones.

Nothing better in life, meeting someone new who makes you smile and think-- and then smile some more.

My best friend has been struggling, though, so she's been on my mind a lot.  It was hard for her to take her two kids to their first day of school orientation the other day.

It was made even more difficult by Ezra's rather bizarre former teacher.  She was supposed to be his brother's teacher this year--she had Ezra in third grade a year ago, and he hadn't really enjoyed the experience.   So my friend wasn't thrilled to see that her other son was slated to have her for his third-grade experience, but she was going to play it by ear.

In the entire time that Ezra was sick, this woman was the only teacher in the entire elementary school who didn't express sympathy or condolences or, well, anything, really.  Not a peep from her, for nine whole months.

Not a card, not a call, not an email, not a text, nothing.  Not even a message sent with any of the other teachers.

She came up to my friend at orientation yesterday, held out her hand, and said, "Hello, I'm Mrs. Permanently Out-to-Lunch."

My friend said, "Yes, I know who you are.  My son Ezra was in your class a year ago."

Mrs. Oddball then gave a bright smile and said, "Yes, I know.  I remember."

My friend: "I don't know if you know, but Ezra was very sick all last year."

Mrs. Clueless: "Oh, yes, I heard."  (Still smiling.)

My friend, "Actually, Ezra passed away three weeks ago."

Mrs. Cold-Hearted, still smiling: "Oh yes, I know.  I heard."

And then she walked away.  Still smiling.

My friend started to cry.

I mean, really.  I usually make it a policy not to kick the ass of elementary school teachers (or anyone), but there are times when you really wish you could make an exception to that rule.

I told my friend that some basic emotional wiring was clearly missing from this woman's brain.

There ARE various formulaic responses we're all schooled in: "I'm very sorry for your loss."  "Yes, I heard, I'm so sorry."  "I can't imagine how difficult it must be for you."

They aren't the best solution, perhaps, but they are socially acceptable and perfectly appropriate.

At the very least, you know enough to stop frickin' smiling cheerfully at the mom who just lost her child to brain cancer, I should think.

My friend switched her son to another third-grade class.  The principal was quite a bit more sympathetic, needless to say.

I told my friend that she should follow the advice my mom gave me when I was four.  I used to come home from kindergarten truly bewildered by the experience and the things that people would say to me--including the teacher herself, who told me that "Nice Girls" "always followed directions" and "didn't work ahead and do extra problems in the math workbook unless they were told to do them."

She also counseled me against reading too much.  And only boys got to finger paint, because girls should be playing in the play kitchen.

Oh, and don't color outside the lines--EVER.  The lines are "there for a reason."

("Nice Girls" don't ask, "What's the reason?") 

I should probably explain that I had the same kindergarten teacher my dad did.

He went to kindergarten in 1937.  I went to kindergarten in 1973.

There was a generation gap, clearly.  Several generations, I think.

Anyway, my mom quickly realized that I was in for a difficult year of kindergarten (and we only went for half a day back then), so she gave me some sage advice.

She said, "In life, people will just say stuff.  Try not to pay too much attention to it."

So this song is for my friend. I listened to it a lot when my mom was dying and I was struggling.

It's a sea ever-churning in tides
In the sureness of time
And our words just repeat now forever again.
Well, this might take a while to figure out now,
So don't you rush it.
And hold your head up high right through the doubt now,
'Cause it's just a matter of time
You've been running so fast,
It's the seven day mile
Has you torn in-between here and running away...
It's a world too big for us
Time will be the judge of all here...

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."