May 6: I’m sitting with my toes practically resting against the screen door to our patio. Rain is coming and chill is already here. But so is the breeze, the birdsong, the fountain burble — and someone’s barbecue. The aroma comes and goes. I don’t want to step away; there might be dessert.
May 7: I had one more garden chore this morning, so I laced up my work shoes, stuck my limbs into my now-clean gardening togs, and grabbed a shovel to widen a bed: my neighbors had three volunteer Hoogendorn Japanese Holly bushes and offered them to me to fill a landscaping hole.
I rounded the corner of our house and stopped short. While I relaxed yesterday, my wonderful neighbors had prepared the bed and planted the shrubs.
The holly is not the only thing that’s growing between our homes.
May 8: Ah, Venice. My passport is up to date, but all I needed today was a Metro card to take me there. On this cold rainy day, I crossed sunny canals, basked in light reflecting off corner churches, and peered over the shoulders of women stringing colorful glass beads. Today was the last day of the Smithsonian’s “Sargent, Whistler and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano” exhibit and I marveled at the museum’s display of paintings, etchings and glass objects.
I lingered everywhere. While it’s hard to pick a favorite, I think I best loved seeing the pieces belonging in the collections of private families, not museums. That beautiful John Singer Sargent pulses every day on their wall; I will see it in person only this once.
Meanwhile, in the museum courtyard, a little girl in a yellow dress and purple boots splashed in canals of shallow water laid for that purpose. We had each found our own Venice.
Bonus: A Mother’s Day poem by Samantha Reynolds of bentlily:
Thank you for not being selfless
Thank you for not
for not erasing
who you were
after you had me.
You added more
You showed me
when it was my turn
to be a mother
is not a leak,
that we can love
only if we practice
Three days a week, while my sister and I were growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s, my mother caught a train to New York City (and worked from home Mondays and Fridays). She nourished both a successful career as a fashion designer and two thriving daughters. She served on our town’s council, drafted master plans, and led our Brownie Troop. I wanted to grow up to be just like Mom. And maybe I did.
May 9: The assistant principal certainly didn’t hear me singing in the garden last week, because he let me substitute in the Music class. I began with my beloved fifth graders.
In the spirit of improv, I said “yes” to their suggestions: let’s sing the Gummi Bear song! Let’s play “chicken on the fence post!” (That game involves marching in a circle and singing to a rubber chicken.) But we started by naming the first songs they had learned as toddlers. “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” “You Are My Sunshine.” “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Clearly a baseball fan, that one.)
Finally, someone shouted “Happy Birthday.” “Thank you,” I said. Catching on quickly, they serenaded me with gusto. (And being fifth graders, they sang the monkey version, but I was fine with that.) Eventually, we got to the lesson, but “Happy Birthday” still echoed in my heart. I have four more classes. And that means four more Happy Birthday songs!
May 10: I drove along a suburban road into a scattering of soap bubbles. I craned my neck back and forth, but I couldn’t find the child who unleashed the joy. I rolled up to a stop light. In the left-turn lane a heating and air conditioning truck puffed clouds of bubbles from the driver’s window. The truck eventually turned. One last bubble drifted in front of my windshield and winked goodbye.
May 11: I was ready: I fasted, I wore a sleeveless top, and I decided I would blame any weight gain on my shoes. My doctor greeted me. Would I consent to a student shadowing her? Sure.
My doctor asked the usual questions, did a few assessments and bade me a cheerful adieu. “Goodbye, doctor. Goodbye, student,” I said.
A few moments later the nurse arrived to draw blood and update my vaccinations. How would I feel if the student administered my shots and drew my blood? Um, ok.
I watched as the nurse showed the student a three-finger measuring trick to avoid the shoulder. (“Feel free to aim at a freckle,” I offered.) I listened as the nurse coached the student on injection technique. (“Like you’re throwing a dart,” I interpreted.) And I gazed at the needle marks on the nurse’s arm. (“She’s been practicing on me,”the nurse said.)
I felt the disinfecting alcohol and my nurse’s cool hand in mine. (As a teaching tool, I decided I could use a bit of comfort.) And then, as I gazed out the window, I felt the pressure of two shots. Not bad.
Then the blood work. Wow! “That,” I said, “was one of the best needle pricks I’ve ever had. And I’ve had lots. Top 10%. Maybe even top 5%. And I’m sorry for calling you ‘Student.’”
“That’s ok. My name is Jessica. You know I won’t forget you.”
“Goodbye, Jessica. I won’t forget you either.”
May 12: I slipped away from my substitute teaching gig to attend an afternoon Washington Nationals game. I had just settled into my peaceful seat when a little boy leaned over and explained to me that every batter gets only three chances to get a hit. Well, not quite. So I explained foul balls, strikes and balls. And then, a little later, I explained double plays to more kids who clustered behind me.
The usher soon escorted the school group to a section nearby. “I thought about putting them in front of you,” the usher confided to me, “but I figured you didn’t want to teach baseball all afternoon.”
Maybe he’s right. But at least that’s a subject I know!
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