Saturday, May 8, 2010

On Break from My Mojito Binge

Hello, world. Remember me? Well, guess what. The semester is over! Grades are in! We've brunched, we've mini-golfed, we've done commencement. Things are as over as they're going to get.

Usually at this point, at the end of spring semester, when I'm staring ahead at three months of time off, I feel pretty giddy. I get a little lightheaded at the thought of so much time to read and write, so much time to live on Popham Beach.

But this time, at the end of spring semester 2010, I'm here to report something a little different. I was sad to see the semester end. I don't think I was exactly ready for it to be over as quickly as it was. One minute it was February and the Olympics were starting, and then there were two weeks left to the semester, and the entire world cracked open and students started going crazy in the ways they usually do at the end of the semester--So, Jess, I had a little bit of a meltdown this semester because I just realized I'm bisexual--my dad made me that way, I swear--and I know I haven't done any of the work, but can I still pass? ETC.--but the craziness barely phased me because I was all like, "WAIT JUST A SECOND. WHERE DID ALL THOSE MONTHS GO?!"

I wanted to cling to the last weeks and drag my heels in the dirt to make time slow down for just a second. Just one second!

This was, after all, a serendipitous little semester. I feel like this one's going to sit with me for a long time, that it's going to be one of those semesters I look back on and realize, hey, I learned a whole bunch over those fifteen weeks.

And it was an important semester because several of my most beloved students are graduating and never coming back. Some are transferring. Some are done with English classes, and I'll never get to have them in class again. People are starting to move on--and not just here. My best boys, my class of engineers from my post-grad school year in Buffalo, graduated today. I can't tell you how nostalgic this makes me feel. I loved those boys, and I had them when they were eighteen years-old, when they were babies, when they were mouthy and funny and ready to find any possible way to introduce me to Ryan Miller. But today they graduated. They graduated. I'm still not sure how that's possible, since I'm certain it was just yesterday that I walked into that classroom and one of them handed me a peanut butter pie and said, "I thought you'd like this."

And here in Maine I feel like I could've used a few more weeks to get used to the idea of not seeing some of my students again. This was, after all, the semester where one of my composition classrooms was stocked with sweet mothers--one whose (very funny) memoir essay was about our first day of class and how when I walked into class she wanted to laugh in my face because I didn't look old enough to teach--and they were my favorite composition class, the one I always looked forward to seeing. And even though I never called in this particular favor, I knew that if ever I really, really needed mothering, I could get it from those women. I knew I could come into class, put my head down on my desk, and ask one of them to get me a ginger-ale with a bendy straw, and they would, and they'd pet my head and ask me what was wrong, was I okay, was I feeling poorly, would a bowl of pudding make me feel better? And it would've. A bowl of pudding and a ginger-ale with a bendy straw will always make me feel better.

What I'm trying to say is this: I'll miss them. And I'll miss Hockey Dad, who was always willing to talk about Ryan Miller and Ryan Miller's general brilliance. I'll also miss Boy with the Pretty Name and The Lobsterman. I'll miss my entire creative writing classes, even Boy Dripping with Sarcasm and Girl Who Routinely Left for a Cigarette in the Middle of Class and Sometimes Never Came Back.

Most of all, though, I'll miss my Monday-Wednesday Therapy Sessions, the like-clockwork-spaces of time when my office ceased being an office and, probably much to the chagrin of my office-mate, became a dorm room filled with giggling, gossiping students. And I'm really, really, really not sure what I'll do next semester when I no longer have a reason to stay at school after my last class, when there will no longer be someone sitting next to me suggesting we listen to this or that song on YouTube, suggesting we look up her classmates' birthdays so we could understand why they are they way they are based on their astrological makeup, suggesting we Facebook-stalk cute boys we'd loved before. (Oh, Christine! Who's going to listen to me talk about Teacher Jail now? Who's going to suggest we ditch the office and go for Thai food? Whose boyfriend is going to bring me coffee or iced tea?!)

I think it's clear that my fall wasn't the greatest and the start of the spring semester--in terms of relationships--wasn't much better. In all honesty, it was my students who got me through all of that. They gave me something else to care about, and that is what made this semester the best I've had in a while. And I know I haven't done an accurate job explaining the loveliness of the last fifteen weeks--I don't know if I ever could--but trust me when I tell you it was a joy to teach this semester. I've been using the word serendipity in every other sentence for the last month or so, and that just about sums it up: This semester and everything that happened in it? Serendipity, plain and simple.

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