Again, and again, and again

There’s nothing sillier than a five-year old. When mine were that age, every bodily function was an absolute hoot. They watched that big purple dinosaur and sang “I love you/you love me/we’re a happy family.” Five is the year my son learned how to put a VCR tape in by himself. That winter, he got the stomach flu and binge watched “The Little Engine That Could” like his own daily affirmation until he quit barfing. In addition to the little engine, he was obsessed with space aliens. My daughter, by comparison, was obsessed with all things pink. Pink bedroom walls, pink shoes, pink, pink, pink. Five was still being tucked in at night. It was fluorescent orange macaroni and cheese from the blue box and learning to ride a bike without training wheels. Five was kindergarten. It was Mrs. “Ostrich” for one, and Miss Polly for the other.

Do you remember your own kids at five?  Or fourteen? What about eighteen or twenty-one? It all runs together once they’re gone until someone or something reminds you of who they were.

I was reminded of Five this morning. A young woman I know teaches busy, silly, loud, barf-y five-year olds. She creates magic with construction paper, glitter, and a special paste in a huge white tub that smells like wintergreen. When she isn’t teaching them, she is herding them like a mother Mallard. Kindergarten teachers are required to herd. I think there’s probably a herding clause in the contract. When she isn’t teaching or herding, sometimes being a kindergarten teacher makes her cry.  Sometimes, it’s the complete silence and cooperation of ducklings during a school “lock down” that does it.

Our nation is reeling from a school shooting. Again. I’ve written about this topic too many times. Again, and again. I’ve written about it as I’ve inched closer to my own retirement. I’ve written about it as my daughter, the middle school teacher and her friend, the kindergarten teacher, have graduated from college and started their own teaching careers. I have loved being a teacher since the first day I stood at the front of my own classroom. This was over thirty years ago. Back then, the idea that teachers and students would have to be trained to prepare for “active shooter” situations would have been as unfathomable as being required to prepare for an invasion of little green men from Mars.  And yet, here we are. On planet Earth. In the United States of America. In the year 2018.

Here we are.  Again.






Great Men

My grandmother always said that she felt 18 years old “on the inside” her whole life. Even when she was 80, she still said this.  I don’t know what age I am on the inside. It’s interesting to think about, though. All I know for sure is that even though I’m at the age where most of my friends are already grandparents, and my hair is silver, and I’m starting to ponder things like retirement, whenever I see an obituary of someone my age, I always think, “too young.”

It happened again yesterday. We were next door neighbors when our kids were small. He was a carpenter and stone mason who worked with his hands his whole life in the same community where he was born. When our house needed a new roof, he roofed it. His sons played in our backyard and shot thousands of baskets in their driveway. Thump. Thump. Thump.  His middle son, Jordan, and our son are still close. This makes my heart glad. It’s a big, lonely, world without good friends.

He and his wife raised three sons. That’s a lot of groceries and gallons of milk and football cleats to replace. It’s a lot of scout badges to earn and pinewood derby cars to race. It’s hours and hours (and hours!) of sitting on hard bleachers in stuffy gyms and frigid football stands. His sons went to college where all three continued their athletic careers. This meant more stuffy gyms and cold football stadiums. Two have advanced degrees now. His oldest son is married, with a son of his own. All three sons are young men who would make any father proud.

Lately, it seems that society’s definition of what makes a man “great” has changed. The bar seems pretty low. This is particularly true if you turn on the news or spend even ten minutes listening to the bleating of a politician, professional athlete, or television personality. They’re all wrong.

It’s hard work for a man to be truly great. Really hard work. This is because men learn how to be men from watching their fathers. If their fathers are kind, they are kind. If their fathers work hard, they will work hard, too. The measure of a man is not what he leaves behind, but who.

Great men know this and live it every day.

They don’t need to shout it from the rooftops.

For Jordan…..Love, Ben’s Mom.