School’s Out Forever: Reflections of a Retired Teacher

When I came back from a field trip a few days before I retired . . .

When I returned from a field trip a few days before I retired . .

, , , this is how I found my library!

, , , this is how I found my library!

Teaching years are like dog years. I taught for 196 years.

Conversely, retirement years speed by like a guppy’s lifespan.  I have been retired since Spring 2010, and while it doesn’t feel like yesterday, it doesn’t seem possible that I’ve been going to sleep for seven years without an alarm clock.

Retired teachers often say they “miss the people” or they “miss the children.”  I will honestly say that, while my colleagues and students enriched my life in profound ways, I do not miss the necessary diplomacy of dealing with educators or the responsibility of guiding and corralling youngsters.

If I’m not a teacher, what am I?

The last year I taught, I was the librarian.  I gave it my all.  I facilitated eight book clubs, organized seventeen field trips, found the right line in my bifocals to shelve thousands of books, and nagged my principal, up to the last hour, for an increase in my budget.

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I Cured My Migraine at the Car Wash

I don’t get migraines very often anymore, now that my ovaries are the size of Tic Tacs.  But sometimes, a confluence of circumstances—my husband, heat, bright light, my husband, stress, lack of sleep, my bokeh-lights_GJZUV2DOhusband—will bring on the spots before my eyes that signal an impending migraine.  Yesterday, it was all of those circumstances, but I think the tipping point was trying on plus size bathing suits on my plusser size body at Dillard’s in unforgiving fluorescent lighting. Let’s just say, that dressing room made my thighs look fat.

Headache Grief Worry or Fatigue

If I catch a migraine early, I can sometimes head it off.  Yesterday I took two Excedrin Migraine, splashed cold water on my face and neck, donned my sunglasses, and went to the purse department, which doesn’t have dressing rooms, mirrors, or judgy saleswomen who call over the half door, “Don’t be hard on yourself.”  (I guess she heard me weeping.)

The headache wasn’t getting worse, but it wasn’t getting better, either.  I felt far from the toss-your-cookies climax, so I decided to run one last errand:  get my seven-month old, electric blue Toyota Camry washed.

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How did this become a thing? Here’s a list of twelve inexplicable things.

When I was a teen in the 60s, these were “things”:  madras purses too small for two Kleenexes; Izod crocodiles on 220px-Wizard_troll_doll-low_resbreast pockets; fluorescent-haired troll dolls; hip hugger jeans, white gym shoes with tan-colored stockings (held by thigh-grinding garter belts); shocking pink paired with lime green; Bob Dylan.

I embraced these things in hopes that some day I would sit at the cool kids’ table, but I never thought about how these things became “things.”

When I was a middle school teacher, I was forever trying to puzzle out how adolescent things became “things.”  Trousers that sagged and revealed underwear; Gothic black;  frayed, holey jeans; UGGs and Crocs,  Avril Lavigne.800px-CrocsAccessories

And here I am in my very adult life, still wondering, “How in the heck did this become a thing?”

Here are a dozen modern day “things.”

plated asparagus and poached quail egg appetizer

Small plate of asparagus and poached quail egg

1. How did small bites in expensive restaurants become a thing?  I don’t recall any time in my life saying, “Let’s get dressed up—I’ll even put on a bra–and go spend a lot of money on a little bit of food so I’ll be hungry enough to come home and eat my leftover meatloaf?

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She said I snore? Liar!


Me sporting what my husband calls a “no pest strip.”

“Hark, how hard he fetches breath.” ―William Shakespeare

There are a couple reasons I keep my husband.  First among them is that he keeps the secret of my snoring.  When we’re in a plane, in a movie theater, or lying on the beach, he is there to nudge me if I, uh, breathe heavily. He doesn’t even have to say the word “snore,” nor would he ever.  No, never!  He just looks at me lovingly in a way he reserves for just such occasions, and I know that I’ve been sighing, loudly.

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Bedtime Stories with Mom

IMG_3619We are home from the doctor’s appointment, so now it is Mom’s bedtime.  If it’s not mealtime or bathroom time or appointment time, it is bedtime.  I help her change into her comfy pajamas, ones that are soft and stretchy, but not so slippery that she’ll slide out of bed. I roll Biofreeze onto her  shoulder and rub Voltaren liniment on her knees, then a dab of ointment on the pressure sore we’ve been tending for five years.  I lift her right leg (by the foot because her legs hurt), and her left, and then swaddle her in a sheet, a blanket, and a spread because the temperature’s only 78.  “You good, Mom?” I ask her.  “Oh, yes,” she says as if she were settling into a spa day.

She is not really my mom, but I have been calling her “Mom” since I was a teenager.  “You’re the daughter I never had,” she told me 48 years ago, three years before I married her son.  When my own mother died in 2013, she said, “I’ll be your mother now.”  And now it seems natural and absolutely right.

Once Mom is all cozied up, I try to get comfortable for the hour-long storytime.  I kick off my shoes and go lie down on the other side of the full bed.   The bed creaks with my weight, and it sounds just like Mom’s knees and shoulders.  The bed isn’t as old as Mom—97—but I wouldn’t doubt if it’s 50. “Maybe you should buy a new bed, one of those fancy Craftmatic ones, the kind that can incline your head or your feet or your bottom with just a press of a button.

“That would be a waste of money at my age.”

“Well, how about a hospital bed.  I think Medicare would pay for it.”

“Not a hospital bed!”  She is appalled, as if I suggested we install a ramp or convert her bathtub to a walk-in shower, all things you do for really old people.

I try to fluff up her smushy pillows to cushion my back, to no great effect.  I finally just sit up, resting my back on the headboard. More creaking.

I pick up the book I’ve been reading to her for a month, Before Oprah:  Ruth Lyons, the Woman Who book coverCreated Talk TV, and ask, “Now where did we leave off?” because I don’t remember, but I know she will.  Her mind is so sharp, her memory so good, I ask her for phone numbers and recipes and addresses that she knows by heart.

“Ruth just had a stroke and she was in Holmes Hospital.  They told everyone she was suffering from exhaustion.  At a photo shoot, the photographer noticed her smile was crooked,” she says.

“Oh, yes.  Okay.”  And I open the book where it’s marked with a store coupon and begin reading.

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Weighing In: My Body of Work

Celery Again

You’ve seen it.  The groom takes a piece of wedding cake and smashes it into the perfectly made up face of his bride.  This is the message:  Ladies will not eat unless they are force fed.

Stop fast-forwarding past the commercials, and you’ll see men scarfing pizza, chicken wings, all manner of delicious cuisine.  Women in commercials are mostly eating yogurt with teeny tiny spoons.  Finger licking, lip smacking, satisfied tummy rubbing?  That is for guys only.

I was recently at a ladies’ luncheon.  You know what was served, right?  Chicken salad on a croissant, with a side of field greens, that salad that tastes like it arrived at your plate directly from the dirt.  And it’s dressed with a squeeze of lemon and angel tears.

I was ladylike in my manner of consumption.  I cut the croissant in 4 bite-size pieces, and took 3 bites out of each piece, blotting my mouth before sipping my saccharine-sweetened iced tea.  I ate my field greens with gusto, because ladies can.  When I threw in my fork, you could have blown the crumbs off my plate and used it, unwashed, for tomorrow’s luncheon.

It was then that I examined the plates of the seven other ladies at my table.  One woman’s plate was, as seen with the naked eye, completely untouched.  A few other women had scraped the filling from their croissants, leaving those buttery, flakey puffs of lusciousness on their plates.  Another woman was eating just the seepage around the croissant, and another consumed the ends, leaving the juicy elbow of the sandwich on her plate.  Most of the women had consumed every leaf of the swamp grass salad.

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Sandy Lingo

Life itself is the proper binge.  - Julia Child

A writing friend said that when she reads my writing, she always wants a second helping.



Second Helping Subjects