An Excerpt from The Charm
Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
Today was the last day of school for the 2011-2012 school year. The past three days have been spent in the hallowed halls of my schools with students poring over notes and books just before entering the classrooms in which they would take their final exams.
During the years that I taught in an elementary school, the last day of school was chock full of excited children wiggling their way to the summer break. By the time the last day of school rolled around, most of the classrooms were cleaned, desks and chairs were stacked, and teachers had to find some way to keep the lid on everyone until the final bell of the day and year. At that bell, noisy students with broad smiles would joyfully make their way to the buses, the staff would stand outside to wave them goodbye, and we would all go home exhausted.
In the high school, come time for that final bell, the maturity of the students tends to dampen the outright celebration seen in the younger children. Many students simply make their way home, some weary from the fatigue of exams, some not even bothered by any extraneous effort over the exam period, and some saddened and dejected after having learned that their efforts (or lack of) did not prove enough to gain all the credits available to them in the semester that was now complete. Some students go home to await the final decision regarding their performance, hoping to hear that indeed, they would be walking across a stage to receive their diploma in two days’ time. Not all of those students would hear that they were finally being released from the grips of the public school system, and those would need to make plans for filling their transcript.
My current position has me a step removed from the frenzy of the last day of school. I hear the bells that signal the end of the year’s classes, and I hear the students moving around in the hallway—some lingering a little longer, some rushing to arrive at last in summer. I continue my work and look forward to the next week or two during which the buildings will be staffed with a few remaining people, the hallways and telephones will be quieted, and my days will be spent putting the finishing touches on the stack of reports that have made their way from the pile labeled “Write Report” to “Nearly Done.”
When I arrived home after work, Andrew came by to drop Levi off with me. He had an upcoming interview for a possible sales position in a neighboring town and didn’t want to leave Levi alone after a full day of work. Andrew was nervous about the interview and was still carrying with him the concern and sadness that he left with on Sunday. Following his interview, which he believed went well, he came back and rested for a while on the sofa. It was clear to me, just by looking at him, that he had not been sleeping well, if at all. He confirmed my suspicion and talked with me about what a difficult time he had been having. While he lay on the sofa, he began to mumble his responses to my attempts at conversation about anything – anything at all that did not have to do with her. Soon enough, his eyes were closed, and he was sleeping.
I don’t remember if Mom ever actually said the words, “Don’t wake anyone from a sleep unless it is absolutely necessary,” but I believe that it was she who, through spoken message or deed, convinced me of this piece of etiquette. Perhaps she instilled this notion in me because she, like most any mother, knows that sleep can be a miracle cure for so many different ailments. I hoped that some sound rest, even on the sofa in my family room, would have some measure of a curative effect on Andrew. While he slept, I ushered the dogs to my office upstairs and stayed there until my stomach informed me that, child sleeping on sofa or not, I needed to have some dinner.
My cooking in the kitchen didn’t rouse Andrew. I stepped outside to call Rod and ask him not to ring the house phone so as not to wake Andrew. While we talked, the kitchen timer that signaled that dinner was ready roused Andrew. Well, I hoped that the little bit of sleep that he got would possibly brighten his mood. I served up our pasta dinner and Andrew ate well, apparently for the first time in days. Following dinner, he sat on the sofa and we talked a little. The young man sitting there, so forlorn, had not made the bounce back that I had hoped for. He seemed extremely drained. I told him that he was too tired to make the drive back to Athens, about an hour away. He was going upstairs, getting into bed, and sleeping until I woke him in the morning with enough time to drive back home and get to work. He offered no resistance to my demand. Upstairs we went, into the bed he burrowed, and, like I had done thousands of times when he was a tyke, I tucked the blankets in around him, kissed him, and reminded him that I loved him. Sleep tight.