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Easter, like Christmas, holds a lot of mixed memories for me. Of course my child’s memory recalls gifts and baskets and bunnies and food. There’s even a real “dyed chick” in there somewhere! I think everyone fell for that gimmick at least once. My family did most of the secular things everyone does. We talked of the Easter Bunny and dyed eggs. The smell of vinegar is still one of my strongest triggers for Easter memories. Chocolate bunnies were a childhood delight. Sometimes I even got a doll or other gift in my basket.
However, thanks to my mother and grandmother, Easter was also a deeply religious experience. We went to church most Sundays, but Easter was a special time of reflection and appreciation for all that God had done for us. It was a time to give serious thought to all of my childish sins. It was a time to be grateful that God didn’t expect me to pay for them in ways that I really deserved. It was a time to hear and understand the triumphant conclusion of the Christmas story.
Easter was also a time to “dress up” and be respectful. Even during some of our poorest years my mother made sure we were starched and ironed for Easter Sunday. The women in our family wore pretty dresses, hats, and gloves. The men wore a suit if they owned one, or their best shirt and slacks. Everyone polished their shoes.
I truly regret that I don’t have even one photo of mother or Gran in a hat! I suppose the reason for that is we never took pictures at church and the first thing both women did when we got home was take off their hat and gloves, slap on an apron, and start fixing lunch. I don’t think either would have thought to put their hat back on just to pose for a picture.
I do have one photo of my own Easter bonnet. It was taken during a high school trip to OKC. Stop laughing! And the sweet group picture is of part of our family at “the ranch” a place first occupied by my grandparents and later by us. At least my cousins, Barbara and Linda, are still wearing their hats.
My adult memories of Easter include some precious times with our children, some elaborate church pageants, and some wonderful dinners with family and friends. But as always there are also memories of deep reflection, understanding, and appreciation. Easter bonnets and shiny shoes are the outward symbols of a new beginning, but a cleansed heart is the beginning of joy and peace.
I met with the Caddo Education Foundation this week. It’s time to award scholarships for local graduates, but it’s not too late to make a donation to the cause. If you would like to make a donation you may do so at the bank in Caddo or by mailing it to Caddo Education Foundation, P. O. Box 82, Caddo, OK 74729. Thank you!
It’s appropriate that the picture on my calendar this month is a bird with its mouth open. I suppose the assumption should be that he is singing, but perhaps he’s shouting a warning or complaining about something. Perhaps he’s telling his fellow birds that it’s time to fly south or north or just on to the next bird feeder.
I spend a lot of time watching the birds. They’re all around me and each window of our house affords a different view of a feeder or tree where they gather. I feed them once a day when I’m working, and twice a day on the weekends. Each species has specific characteristics and definite patterns of behavior. It’s fun to watch them interact with each other. And over the years I’ve begun to understand what a cardinal will do in my yard, versus what a dove or bluebird will do.
I have the same opportunity each year with a group of children. They gather together in my room for the duration of the year and I get to watch as they interact with each other. Each child has a different personality and comes from a specific environment, yet their patterns of behavior are often similar and sometimes even predictable. I know everyone thinks their child is unique and special. I agree. But they are also very similar to certain “types” of other children, just as you and I have similar characteristics and beliefs and behaviors in common with other people. We often group ourselves with those people for friendship, entertainment, community service, religious affiliation, etc.
By April there is a definite hierarchy in my classroom. There are friendships and alliances. There are outcasts and loners. The social breakdown of my group has little to do with me and is essentially out of my control. I know that a couple of my students are a “bad combination” and letting them sit or stand together will always result in one or both of them misbehaving. I know that two of my students have been vying for leadership since the beginning of the year and will continue to do so until the last day. I know that one of my students isn’t trusted by the others. I know that one of them isn’t popular. I can counsel and guide, but I can’t alter the way a child is perceived by others or how they react to that opinion.
What happens socially in my classroom will have as much impact on the future success of these students as anything I teach them. Their personality, behavior, and moral compass will dictate how they interact with their peers in the years ahead. Their own preferences will help them decide if they want to fly with the flock or soar alone. I can make observations and predictions based on what I see in my classroom, but I can’t change their course…only they can do that.
So, in keeping with my bird analogy, I consider preschool and kindergarten to be the nesting phase for our little fledglings. This is the time when they are fed and guided and protected by a hovering adult. This is their opportunity to learn the basic skills they will need when they leave the nest. But at the end of their time with us they must be ready to fly- both with the flock and out on their own. Next year they will have more independence. Though still supervised, there will be more and more times when they need to make good choices, be confident, cooperate with others, stay motivated and work hard without the direct intervention of an adult. That pattern will continue for many years.
Yes, there are a few little ones who aren’t quite ready for the big world and they will stay in the nest for a little more training, but the rest are ready to fly!
I like to think of a successful marriage as the collaboration of two people who are intelligent, independent, and creative enough to be successful on their own, but choose to join forces because life is just so much more enjoyable that way! I’ve spent forty-three years with this guy and I still can’t wait to see what we will do next. Happy Anniversary to us!
Saturday I observed a brief encounter between a young woman and a store clerk. She was rather curt and impatient and displayed a hostile attitude that probably had little to do with the clerk or her purchase. Her three young children were bored and tired. They were whining and misbehaving. I left before I overheard the solution to her problem. However, when I got to my truck it occurred to me that she could very well have been one of “my parents”. And I breathed a sigh of relief. One of the benefits of retiring will be that I no longer have to attempt to solve the problems of curt, impatient people with hostile attitudes.
Of all the reactions to my profession the one that annoys me the most is “Oh, you teach kindergarten? They are so cute! I’ll bet that’s so much fun!” Well, yes they are and yes it is. But they are also little people with personalities and problems…lots of problems. And my job is to help solve those problems so they can be successful students for the next ten to fifteen years. Most of that process is not so much fun. It’s work. It’s sleepless nights. It’s long discussions with parents. And parents can be the biggest problem of all.
There are lots of jobs that require one to work with John Q. Public. My husband works in retail. I worked in retail for several years. We’ve both worked in food service and in a hospital. I’m sure many of you work daily with strangers. But some of you out there generally work with your “peers”: people from the same socio-economic group, perhaps even from the same religious background, who have similar goals and expectations. You may not understand what it is like to be required to commit your time and effort to a total stranger for nine months and not only work with them to make plans and solve problems, but do so with a smile and a positive attitude even if you see “disaster” in everyone’s future!
Please don’t misunderstand this. I love people and I enjoy meeting new ones and most of my experiences with parents have truly been enjoyable. Many have become lifelong friends. But teaching has also obliged me to work with some people that I would never have encountered in my personal daily life. Here are some of my most memorable parents from the past twenty years: thief, self-declared witch, pimp, drug dealer, rapist, ex-con, alcoholic, drug addict, murderer. Throw in a few who were mentally unstable and one or two who took an instant disliking to me and you may understand my sigh of relief. Anyone can have a child. Teachers are the ones who end up working with the people who shouldn’t have had one.
“Working with parents” is often a neglected topic of teacher education. I remember only a few “what if” discussions in my college classes and most of those depicted scenarios in which the parent wasn’t the problem. I’ve often wished that I’d taken more abnormal psychology classes in preparation for some of my encounters! But I’ve muddled through. I’ve prayed a lot. I’ve asked other teachers for advice. I’ve read reports and done some research. I’ve tried to change the lives of my students and in some small measure, those of their parents. In retrospect I think that I’m the one who has changed the most. Teaching has forced me out of my comfort zone to witness environments and lifestyles that I still don’t fully understand. Working with John Q. Public has been frustrating at times, but oh so fascinating.
I’m not a winter person. I’ll be the first to admit that my California blood hates ice and snow. That white stuff is something I went to the mountains to see as a child, and I was happy to leave it behind when we returned home. As I get older and my joints ache and my damaged feet get more and more unsteady, the winter months are more and more of a threat to my mental and physical health. So each year I wait for the opening of the first tulip. Even though the weather may surprise us with one last late freeze, the first tulip assures me that the coming weeks will provide more warmth than cold, and more comfort than pain. Thank you Lord for spring!
A popular social media activity is “throwback Thursday”…posting nostalgic photos from our younger years. I don’t often participate since my blog affords me so many opportunities to reminisce. However, this morning I was just “in the mood”, so I began a search of my files for something I hadn’t posted before. I soon realized how many photos I have of our family at the local park and how many wonderful memories I have of that place.
My father was a big fan of the “Sunday drive”. After church and lunch we often drove to the foothills, down country lanes, or to the local park. I hadn’t thought much about it until today, but we were very fortunate to have Roeding Park so close by. It was a wonderful place for picnics and play time. It had a small amusement area, several ponds, acres of grass, and a zoo.
I was fortunate too that my parents, especially my father, were such outdoor enthusiasts. You would think after a week of working outside in the fields and garden that they would want to spend their leisure time inside, but weekends, vacations, and holidays almost always found us outside somewhere. I suppose cost was a factor. Most places we visited and most activities we enjoyed didn’t cost much. And we usually didn’t do anything complicated or planned. We’d just pack a few sandwiches, buy the Sunday paper and a loaf of bread, and go spend the afternoon playing, and feeding the ducks.
Many of my students tell me about their weekend trips to the movies, the mall, ballgames, etc. I think it will be interesting to see what remains in their memory fifty years from now. Picnics in the park linger in mine.
Note: It’s ironic that my memory focused on the park today. There is a growing concern that expansion plans for the zoo will destroy much of the park’s vegetation, including the massive trees that were so important to the park’s founder. The family is against creating a larger zoo habitat at the expense of their ancestor’s dream. I have to agree with them. I hope that the park continues to have a variety of activities for families and to maintain a balance with the zoo. Many, many cities have zoos, but this particular park has some unique features that deserve to be preserved for future generations. This photo was taken at the zoo several years ago with my grandchildren.
It’s still a week until our official anniversary, but I’ve been thinking about our life together and I just felt like posting a few photos of us as newly married kids. We thought we were adults, but it took a few years and experiences before we truly were. I know most long marriages have included a lot of “good and bad” and even a little “ugly”. Ours is no exception. However, I wouldn’t trade my husband for any other, and all of our experiences have made our relationship stronger and better.
To those of you just starting out I would say “Be kind, be patient, stay together.”
I was struck this morning by the relevance of my daily Bible reading- a passage from Isaiah about the difference between wants and needs- actually about the difference between what we want and what God knows we need.
We want lots of things. And often that’s the problem- our wants really are things. We get caught up in the accumulation of objects, gadgets, clothes, vehicles, etc. We want the updated, upgraded, newest, best thing on the market.
We want to be somewhere else. We want to be there instead of here- on vacation instead of working, in that town instead of this one, in that climate instead of our own.
We want better relationships. We want admiration instead of disrespect. We want love instead of contempt. We want peace instead of anger. We want appreciation instead of being taken for granted.
We want to have fun. We want to play instead of work. We want to be entertained and amused. We certainly don’t want to be bored.
We want to eat. We want to be nourished instead of hungry. We want to celebrate food instead of just consuming it. We want to have sugar and spices and sodas and cake and any other thing our inner child desires.
We want to feel great. We want health instead of sickness, strength instead of pain. We want to be tough and active and capable.
We want to be smart. We want to make good choices instead of stupid ones that will ruin our lives. We want to solve problems and understand how things work. We want to create new things.
Some of our desires are acceptable to God and in line with what He wants for us. However, it occurred to me this morning that the means to achieving what we want is sometimes the difference between God’s will and our own. We want what we want NOW- without patience, without hard work, without sacrifice, without pain, without conflict. Sometimes God says “no” to what we want because He knows that on the path toward our best life we need something else. But sometimes I think He just diverts us for a while so that when He gives us the desires of our heart we will truly appreciate them.
What do you want today?