When I hear about the latest, greatest, sure-fire innovation to increase student learning, I feel weary.
I still remember the day I studied older children diving into a swimming pool, then perched on the pool’s edge, propelled my body out and down — and gave up belly flopping forever. Maybe you remember teaching the family dog to roll over, learning to roller skate on your own, or making your friends laugh with your first successful joke.
Like most newly hatched garage-sale addicts, after a summer spent buying second-hand goods on Saturday and questioning my sanity on Sunday, I decided to have a garage sale of my own. I convinced a group of friends to co-host a sale in my back yard; the ladies who nurtured my garage-sale mania, Shirley and Eileen, agreed to lend their wisdom to our cause.
In my early 20s, with a job and readily available spending money for the first time since starting college, I succumbed to my mom’s genes, and became a collector, buying inexpensive items that appealed to me.
Cousins there were, too numerous to count. They arrived in bulging sedans for family reunions in the hot heart of summer and turned wild, as though they had no manners. They splashed in the off-limits creek, ran with sharp sticks meant for hot dogs, threw rocks willy-nilly and burned their marshmallows black. They shoved, taunted, threatened to tell and berated one another with scandalous words heard at school.
When I look in the mirror, I see Dad’s eyes looking back at me. I also have his height, frame, ears and hand gestures. I like the physical features I share with my dad, but I’m surprised when I display his behaviors — especially those I vowed to avoid when I was young, smug and critical.
On May 30, small flags will be planted; and those who remember will quietly gather in cemeteries across our land. Taps will soar, echo and fade. The names of men and women who died serving our country during times of war will be read, and crowds either large and small, but always attentive, will listen with gratitude to the roll call of our honored dead.
When I think of my mother, as I did on Mother’s Day, I see her in her mid-60s. She sits in her favorite rocking chair in a circle of lamplight that softens her wrinkles and highlights her brown hair. As she sews a button on one of Dad’s shirts, her wedding band, thinned by 50 years of wear, flashes in the lamp’s glow.
Mrs. Huff was noted for her monumental bosom and the hiccupping soprano. She used to teach my third-grade class the song “Far Away Places.” Singing lyrics about the alluring glamour of lands across the sea shaped my desire to visit “places with strange sounding names,” and motivated my collection of unusual words that describe travelers’ experiences or emotions. Some of my favorites follow.
Men have fewer fashion crises and quandaries than women. To be considered well dressed, a man buys a limited number of items: shirts, jackets, pants, underwear, shoes, socks, belts and a tie or two.