Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It's funny, I've got some friends following my blog, and they have such different reactions. One would prefer I not name names, one is OK with names, but nothing incriminating, one would prefer pseudonyms, and then there's the liz...
"Enough about Kathleen! I'm reading your blog every damn day, and not a WORD about me yet!"
This one's for you, lizzie!
the liz
I live in a wonderful neighborhood which contains two fabulous schools. Almost from the minute we moved in, I was asked, "Which school are you sending your kids to? " With a newborn and a two-year-old, I really hadn't finalized that decision yet, but it became clear to me that a choice would have to be made, if only to shut these people up.
As we reached the decision to go with the small, Catholic school, I began to hear all the stories. Right away I started hearing about the first grade teacher. Not only was she the only one at the school, she was one of a kind in every way. She was legendary, and any child would be lucky to have her. I could hardly wait.
The years passed, and at last I had a first grader. I, myself a former classroom teacher, was eager to be highly involved in my child's class. This teacher wouldn't know how she did it without me. I would be impressive, and she would be grateful.
One "goodbye" at the door let me know that this was not kindergarten. No more warm fuzzy greetings from the teacher, no more of the "take your time" attitude. Parents were given a curt, clear subliminal message, "This room is all about your children. I don't give a damn about you, and I have no problem telling you that." At Open House she announced that while she had given up many of the things she'd once enjoyed in the 60's, her name, written only in lower case, was not one of them.
Months went by and still I was not made to feel indespensible, in fact, I'd yet to gain entry into her lair. It was killing me. My daughter was flourishing, but I was withering. Finally, a friend, fellow parent and substitute teacher in the building, sang my praises to the liz, and I was "in". I was sworn in, so to speak. She spoke very seriously of the critical need to safeguard children's privacy. What they said and did in the room was not the general public's business. Who was "low" and who was "high", likewise, was confidential. Until I fully demonstrated my understanding of this, I was probationary. Although I carried a couple of advanced degrees in education, no amount of initials after my name could compare the pride I felt being one of liz's chosen.
By the time my son, three years later, was embarking on his first grade career, I was so "in" that I was slated to work, side-by-side, with the liz, two afternoons a week. What began as a respectful, cooperative arrangement between colleagues, turned into a deep, life-long friendship.
My son, Wil, came to school with lots of diagnoses stacked against him, but with one key weapon in his favor, a keen sense of humor. It wasn't long before he and liz, and he called her liz, were one. They "got" each other, playing off one another and working together in a beautiful symbiotic relationship. Soon I was coming early and staying late, being invited to parties in her home, talking to her on the phone, and then the drop bys.
Our doctors and orthodontists are all over in liz's neighborhood, eight miles away. Whenever I happened to mention I'd been to one or the other, she'd say, "Now why didn't you just drop by?" So I began to. And she began to. Being an avid bike rider, she rode to school and back. She'd often drop by on her way home from work, and occasionally before, coming to enjoy our morning prayer time.
That summer she joined a biking group from my neighborhood, that gathered at 6:00 AM. One such morning, following a conversation in which I had bragged that my washer and dryer were extra-large capacity, I awoke to find her laundry on my front porch!
We are now comfortably in our fifth year of friendship. On Saturday we will celebrate her 34th wedding anniversary together, sans her husband. This will be our third year, a tradition has been born. Last year her husband lay on the couch in front of Fox News, while we dined in style. Not to fear, their wedding picture was strategically placed in the center of our table. In their refrigerator at home she'd left a note attached to his nightly beer, "My mother called to wish us happy anniversary, and to tell you what a lucky man you are."
As I drove my son home from Occupational Therapy today at 3:55, he just happened to mention that he'd invited liz over. He'd seen her at recess, and told her she could come from 4:00 to 4:45, sharp! We got in the house just as the phone was ringing.
"Tell Wil it's 4:00 sharp and I'm still at school. Ask him if I can come at 4:15."
Wil did his best to adjust to the change in plans. When liz did arrive he wanted to take her upstairs and show her his new chin-up bar. He is proud that he can hang and let his feet leave the ground. A huge accomplishment for someone with "gravitational insecurity". liz realizes and appreciates his accomplishments as much as I do. She has watched Wil grow and develop these last five years. She is invested in him. He knows this. He knows how deep her love for him goes.
When liz passed my son to the second grade teacher she said to her, "He will touch your heart in places you didn't know existed." Thank you, liz, for doing the same for us.


Terry Whitaker said...

I love this one--and I think the way you've changed it from the original really works well.

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