Posted tagged ‘college’

“Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling”

September 1, 2016

Earlier this m0rning I heard kids playing, a dog barking and the rain falling on the leaves. Now all I hear are the birds. I know it is still raining because I looked out the back door and saw the drops, but they are too little to make any sound. I turned off the air conditioning this morning, but I doubt being without air conditioning will last long. It is so humid you can cut it with a knife, as my father was wont to say.

The morning hasn’t started well. Fern and Gracie woke me up by staring at me close to my face. Fern’s whiskers tickled and Gracie had hot breath. I got up. Later Fern was sick a few times. I think it was the cat food. I have to go to Agway for dog food so I’ll pick up some different food for Fern to try. She is too skinny. I worry.

My neighbors drove their daughter to college on Monday. She is a freshman. Last night my neighbor called and told me she has been crying since Monday. Her daughter has called and is also crying. I don’t remember being that homesick at college though I do remember homesickness in Ghana. The big difference was I could call my family and go home for weekends as my college was only a couple of hours away while Ghana was almost eleven hours away by plane and mail took two weeks. Phone calls were out of the question.

I got over being homesick. I think being so far away and so disconnected made it easier to see Ghana as home.

It is less than two weeks until my trip home. I have made lists. One is what I need to buy while the other is what has to be packed. The countdown doesn’t begin until one week from my flight. It is getting close.

“Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.”

May 1, 2016

The grey day is in anticipation for the rain coming tonight. It feels cold to me, a bit raw. My sister has snow. She says it has been snowing a while but not much has accumulated on the roads, and the grass is barely covered. Her weatherman says a big storm will hit them next week, could be as many as 8″. She can’t see the mountains. They are socked in. Happy May Day, Moe!

In the Globe this morning I read some college had its graduation yesterday thus ushering in the season of graduations. That brought back a jumble of memories. I remember my mother telling me that she and my father had never imagined they would have a child go to college. No one in the family had ever gone. I also remember my father telling me I’d have to transfer from my college to a state school if my brother wanted to go to a private college as I had. He told me my brother would have to support a family so he should get the better education. That struck me to the quick because he wasn’t considering me. He was considering the role of women and throwing me into the mix, but it wasn’t an out of the blue idea for my dad. His generation believed women stayed home and men worked, but I knew I’d never have to transfer. I knew my brother better than my father did.

When I was a senior in college and the future loomed, I started to make choices. My first choice was always the Peace Corps for as long as I could remember. My second choice was law school, and my final choice, my back-up, was teaching. First I filled out and sent the Peace Corps application. I then took the LSAT. I did well and applied to a few law schools. Suffolk accepted me. I told my father about law school and wanted to know if he would help me pay for it. No was his answer. He said law was not for women. I hated his mind set, but I was okay with the no. In January I was accepted to train for Peace Corps. I called Washington right away and accepted the invitation. I then had my mother tell my father. It was cowardly, no question about it. He forbad me to go. I would have chuckled when he said it, but that would have made his veins pop in anger. A few months later my dad told me he and my mother had been talking, and they would be happy to help pay for law school. I recognized the offer for what it was and thanked him but said no.

In the spring I started to interview for teaching jobs just to go through an interview process. One interviewer told me they only hire teachers with masters. I told him that wasn’t true or he wouldn’t be interviewing any of us as we were getting our bachelor’s. I was totally frank with all my answers. I had nothing to lose. At the end of the interview he offered me a job. I admitted then I wasn’t looking for a job, just interview experience. I was going into the Peace Corps. He offered me his card and said call him when I got home. I didn’t.

If I hadn’t chosen Peace Corps, I would never have been a teacher. Of all the gifts those two years gave me, teaching was the ultimate. I had found the place where I fit the best and loved the most, the classroom.

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”

April 29, 2016

This week has been boring. I figure it’s my fault for doing nothing except some house chores and a dump run. I was going to take a ride yesterday, but I got stopped at an accident where three police cruisers were blocking cars from going any further so I turned around and went home. I brought my laundry down stairs this morning and it is sitting in front of the cellar door until I can’t stand looking at it anymore. It is just one of those weeks.

When I was young, I was a dreamer. My imagination was filled with adventures I knew I’d have. My friends too had dreams, but theirs were far different from mine. Some dreamed of getting married and having a family. One of my friends used to cut out pictures from bridal magazines and put them in an album. I guessed she wanted to be ready. Her dream did come true as she ended up being the first of us to be married and have children. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding. One of my friends dreamed of starting his own company and making lots of money. The last time I saw him, decades ago, he was a salesman. He seemed happy. Many of my friends went right to work after high school, got married in a while and had kids. Now they’re grandparents. Some became social workers, nurses and teachers. They all seemed happy with their choices. One became a nun, but she left after a while. I don’t know what she does now.

When asked, I would usually answer teacher because it was an easy answer, but there was far than that to my dreams. I saw myself as an adventurer wearing a safari jungle hat and safari clothes while riding in a Land Rover which bumped up and down on roads not deserving of the name. I could see myself on a boat drifting down the Amazon or the Nile. I wasn’t picky. I was in the jungle and I was in the desert. A desert nomad and I shared bush tea in a tent near an oasis. I’d read adventure stories and put myself into the exploits. I would travel to so many places and see the world. I am a dreamer who grew up but has never stopped dreaming.

“I’ve never been to a class reunion or anything because I’m always afraid of that one – there’s going to be some ‘Carrie’-like incident.”

October 9, 2015

The morning was cloudy and cold when I woke up around eight. I decided the day was uninviting so I stayed in bed another hour. Since then the sun has appeared and warmed the day. Gracie and I have a dump run later. I haven’t told her. It’s a surprise.

This weekend is my fiftieth high school reunion. Tonight is a cocktail party, tomorrow morning coffee and pastries then a tour of the school and finally dinner tomorrow night. I don’t know quite what to think. Fifty years since high school, a whole half-century ago, seems like such a long time if you think of it by itself, in years, but I never gave thought to the year by year passing of time. My life has been measured by events.

There was the fall when I started college. I remember wearing the ugly blue beanie and being asked questions by the upper classmen. That was a breakout year. I was on my own. I don’t remember much, but I do remember the first college dance and the first party, but that last one is a bit hazy. I remember the junior prom at Wentworth by the Sea. We all had imbibed as the class advisor told the management we were of age. The funniest incident was when my friend Andy, as in Andrea, who had imbibed a bit too much, missed the choosing of the prom queen. She was so mad she wanted it declared invalid as she believed she would have been chosen, and we had to restrain her for a bit. My senior year brought the most memories. We had student teaching, and that’s when I knew I was destined to teach high school. We had our Friday get-togethers at the bar every week, a prom at the Marblehead yacht club where I remember toasting, drinking then throwing my glass overboard and then there was graduation. I remember standing in line in the hall. I remember getting my diploma. That was four years gone.

I remember flying to Philadelphia for staging then flying to Ghana, training there and living in Bolga for two years. I can describe everything. My time there lives in vibrant colors in my memory banks. I remember leaving and silently crying the whole flight from Tamale to Accra.

I remember getting my teaching job and teaching English and loving it. I remember the interview for administrator, and I remember when they chose me. I remember the first kid I had to suspend. He had a cast on his arm, and I hated calling his mother. I remember realizing I could retire in three years when I turned 57. That was like a jolt to my psyche. All I’d done for what would be 35 years would end.

I have been retired for 11 years and have alternated between being busy and being totally idle, sloth-like. I have spent entire summers on my deck. I finally made it back to Ghana, not once but twice. I remember walking out of the plane and smiling. Ghana had changed but it still felt like home to me.

In four paragraphs I have just described the last fifty years. Tonight I’ll celebrate those years.

“Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”

September 27, 2014

Yippee! It is a deck day, warm and lovely. Summer just isn’t ready to leave yet, and I’m glad. Both doors are open and the air smells like cut grass. Early this morning it smelled like the ocean.

When I went to get the papers this morning, I noticed yellow leaves on the bush across the street and red leaves on my burning bush by the driveway. It seems fall is making its presence known a bit at a time.

The best part of being a kid was taking delight in so many things. I mostly remember being happy. Many adults see the world through darker glasses and have learned to be cynical and sometimes distrustful. A kid is wide-eyed. Snow is a joy not an inconvenience. Rain means puddles to run through. Grass is soft and cool and lying on it gives the best view of the summer’s night sky. A bicycle takes us away. A nickel is a king’s ransom, a treasure. Finding a bottle is another nickel, another treasure.

Being a teenager was a lot of work. I had to endure those horrific rollers in my hair, sometimes even overnight. The right clothes and shoes were a necessity. Boys got important. I seldom noticed the weather except for rain. It ruined my hair. School meant hours of homework. I did have fun with my friends and I was out most weekends, but the future was always looming.

College was work but it was fun. We partied a lot. Some weekends passed in a daze. I was far too busy with classes and weekends to notice much about the world. I had choices to make my senior year. I chose the Peace Corps, and I am forever thankful for that. All of a sudden it was a new world and I was wide-eyed again. I stopped and looked and slept outside under a billion stars. I was a little kid again.

I still stop and notice. Once relearned, it isn’t ever forgotten.

“Hope combined with action is the only thing that will bring you contentment.”

July 17, 2014

The rain was light but steady when I went to bed. During the day it had gotten heavy at times, and I had a flooded floor in the kitchen when I got back from my errands as I had left the back door open. It took a mop. By afternoon the humidity was thick and stifling so I put on the air. The house felt wonderful and I slept until 10, unusual for me. I turned the air off this morning as the day is cooler and less humid than it has been. The sun is even breaking through and the day is getting lighter. I didn’t begrudge the rain. We needed it.

Once I wanted to be Annie Oakley, a horse riding sharp shooting cowgirl who also happened to be the sheriff. I didn’t realize it at the time but she wasn’t stereotypical which is what I think drew me to her. Many of my favorite characters were girls and women who were smart, brave and daring. I loved Lois Lane though I hated those tiny hats, the suits she wore and the purse she always carried. She was dogged in her pursuit of a story and the identity of Superman, and she never let being a woman stand in her way though she did end up being saved time and time again by Superman. TV in the 50’s had few strong women characters. Most, like June Cleaver, wore dresses, pearls and aprons and had dinner ready when their husbands came home from work. Alice Kramden managed to break out a bit. She wore the apron but she was never cowered by Ralph.

As I was growing up, I knew I’d go to college. No one in my family had, but I just knew I would. It was part of the plan I had hatched when I was young, as young as ten or eleven. I’d go to college then I’d travel the world. There was neither doubt nor hesitation in my mind.

When I graduated from college, my mother told that she and my father had never envisioned that one of their kids would go to college. They were both thrilled and proud that I had. Earlier, though, they weren’t so thrilled and proud when I had announced the next part of my plan, traveling the world. My father forbade me to accept the Peace Corps invitation to go to Ghana. I mean really, here I was twenty-one, a few months from graduating, and my father actually thought he could stop me from doing what I wanted. If I hadn’t been so angry, I would have laughed at the absurdity. I ignored him, and he knew I was going with or without his support so he begrudgingly accepted my decision and gave his support.

My life has worked out even better than I had envisioned. It has been so much more.

“Part of the urge to explore is a desire to become lost.”

March 1, 2014

Snow is coming on Monday. Wow, I’m just so excited. We haven’t had any in at least three days. The weatherman also says it will be cold for most of the week. What a surprise! I was getting so tired of those high 20 degree days.

Today looks washed-out with light but no sun and some blue but mostly gray skies. The breeze is brisk and chilling.

I make all these plans to go places then I decide that being home and warm is the best place to be. Today I haven’t a choice. I have some must do errands. I will, however, award myself in some way for being fearless in the face of frigid cold and winter’s mighty hand.

I am an explorer. Even when I was a kid I explored. On my bicycle I rode all over town. I’d go down roads I hadn’t ever ridden on before. It wasn’t ever to find anything. It was just to see what was there. From high school in Arlington, it was a dime bus ride to Harvard Square down Mass Ave. It was the best of times for Harvard Square. The Orson Wells Theater, the old kiosk and the Wursthaus were still there. Book stores were everywhere. My friends and I explored the square time and time again. We went down one way streets resembling alleys and found hidden places to eat. We walked Harvard Yard. We never tired of spending a dime to get to the Square. We knew we might just find someplace neat, someplace new.

In college, I was no less an explorer but hardly explored. Books and classes took far too much of my time, and each summer I had to work. I was stuck in one place for what seemed like the longest time. I had a few interesting adventures in college and they helped but weren’t quite enough. My need to explore had expanded well beyond my bicycle and Harvard Square. I wanted new places. I wanted to need maps and hear a foreign language. I wanted the chance to be lost.

I am still an explorer, but my boundaries have expanded well beyond what I dreamed when I was ten. I have been lost several times, and I love finding my way. That’s what explorers do.

“Adulthood is accretive by nature, a thing which arrives in ragged stages and uneven overlaps.”

December 28, 2013

I collect hats. They hang from nails on the bottoms or tops of the bookshelves, which one depends on your orientation. I tend to think they hang from the bottom shelves. My friend gave me two new hats for Christmas. One is your basic black perfect for almost any occasion. The other is white fur with ear flaps and a red Soviet hammer and sickle pin on the front. I figure red is not an accident. It is now my favorite hat.

Today is warmer than yesterday. Gracie has been in and out all morning. She is my temperature gauge. The longer she is out, the warmer the weather.

When I was a kid, relatives trying to make conversation sometimes asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I figured it was just one of those polite questions asked right after concerns about my health and before I was dismissed, the pleasantries being finished. The health I could answer, but what I wanted to be was elusive. I answered cowgirl once in my Dale Evans phase, but I didn’t actually think I’d ride a horse and work on a ranch. Lois Lane was about the most interesting woman on TV back then. She was a reporter but not just any reporter. She was dedicated to getting the news no matter what. Lois often found herself in trouble but Superman always saved her, and her story made front page. Reporter was a possibility. I never imagined myself in pearls, short heels and a dress so being a Mrs. Cleaver or a Mrs. Stone was out of the running. I read a book from the library about Nellie Bly, and she became my heroine. I wanted to be Nellie Bly. Not only was she a reporter but also a world traveler and a muckraker. She taught me to disregard boundaries: I can do anything.

I went to college, the first in my family to attend. It pushed the boundaries, but I didn’t think of it that way. I just figured it would give me time to work out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.”

November 5, 2013

The sun is among the missing. It’s been gone a while. Today is dark and bleak. Very little color is left in my yard except for one small tree next to the drive-way. Its has red leaves, brilliant red leaves against the backdrop of empty branches.

 I filled the feeders yesterday, and I got really cold. My fingers were the coldest of all. I filled three feeders with sunflower seeds and two with thistle. I also filled one suet feeder, cleaned out the bird bath and added water to it. When I looked later, the birds had descended in full force. When I looked after that, a red spawn was inside one of the feeders. I ran out and scared it so much the panicked spawn had trouble getting out from behind the wires on the feeder. I kept running at it, and the spawn was close enough to touch before it jumped to a branch. It is the same spawn who got hosed all summer. I’m thinking a squirt gun as the hose is put away for the winter. 

When I was young, we’d go into Boston, to the Public Garden, and ride the swan boats. The boat pond was always filled with ducks and the garden itself had a million squirrels and pigeons. People would sit on benches and feed the birds and the squirrels pieces of bread and peanuts from vendors who sold them from red carts along the walkways. I always wanted to feed the squirrels. I thought they were cute. What did I know? I was little. 

Life is filled with routine. It starts when we go to school. We get up every weekday, eat breakfast, get dressed and walk to school. The subjects come in the same order every day except on music and art day. We eat lunch at the same time every day. We go out for recess unless it’s raining. High school doesn’t change the routine much. For me the only difference was I took a bus every day, every day at the same time with the same people. The subjects still came in order. Lunch was at the same time every day . We didn’t have recess but we did go out for air in the small fenced in yard behind the school.

College is when the routine starts to change, and we begin to taste the freedom of choice. Pick your own classes mindful of the schedule. Eat when you have time. Sit around and play cards in the canteen. Skip a class now and then. 

After college, the routine reasserts itself at work. Be there at a certain time, eat lunch at the same time as yesterday and the day before and the day before that, teach the same classes in the same order every day. Go home around the same time every day. That, however, was the first routine I barely noticed and never minded. I didn’t like the getting up part, but I loved the work part. I loved my first two years in Ghana and I loved the next thirty-three here on the cape. I think loving what you do makes the day joyful though not every day because we couldn’t be that lucky, but it does for most days. 

 I have no routine now, and I’m glad. I get to choose whatever my day will be. It doesn’t get much better than that.

“Everything you can imagine is real.”

May 20, 2013

Last night it rained, not a furious rain falling in sheets but a steady drop by drop rain. I had my bedroom window opened, and I fell asleep to the sound of the drops. This morning when I woke up, the day was cloudy and damp. Since then the sun has taken over the sky and brightened the day. It’s a pretty morning.

The window view from here in the den is one of my favorites. The branches of the tall oak tree fill the window, and I get to watch the tree change every season. The leaves now are young and a bright green. Hanging off a couple of the branches are bird feeders, and I get to watch the birds zoom in and out or stay for a while at the suet feeder. The winter view through that window is bleak. I can see only bare branches and dead leaves fluttering in the wind. When the first buds appear, it’s time for a celebration as I know the tree will soon be full and beautiful. It’s almost there now.

Sometimes I ponder my life and every time I do, I realize how lucky I have been. First of all I had great parents though I didn’t always appreciate them, especially when I got sent to my room or yelled at or had a slipper thrown at me by my mother who had absolutely no aim. She never once got any of us. We always ducked if it came close. I got to wander my town and go to the zoo or the swamp or play in the woods. I had a bike which took me even as far as East Boston to see my grandparents which scared the bejesus out of my mother as we had to travel on Route 1A, a busy highway which didn’t always have sidewalks. That bike was one of my childhood joys. My parents took us to museums which developed in us all a love of museums. They let us dream our dreams. I went to college and had no debt when I graduated because my father thought it was is responsibility to pay for school. My parents once told me they never thought any of their kids would go to college as no one in our whole family had ever gone. They were thrilled one of us did and so was I as I had chosen well. I loved Merrimack. The Peace Corps was the defining moment in my life which gave me a love of teaching, two years living in Africa of all places and friends for life. 

I have traveled many places in the world and have filled my memory drawers with those adventures, those vistas, the bumpy roads and crowded busses, the tastes of unknown foods and the joy of seeing all those pictures from my geography books come to life. Every year I went somewhere foreign, somewhere to satisfy my wanderlust. I got to retire early and since then have been to Africa three times: once to Morocco and twice to Ghana. My retirement has been so much fun: greeting the sun on the first of spring, sloth days, game nights with my friends, sitting on the deck doing absolutely nothing, movie nights and on and on and on.

Every now and then, like today, I give thanks for the life I have been privileged to lead. I don’t ever want to forget that.