When I first began teaching I had a tendency to judge the quality of each work day by dwelling on the worst thing that had happened. I began to wonder if I was suited for such a profession and often felt overwhelmed. A wise educator who had been around the classroom block a time or two suggested that I instead create two columns in my mind, one that listed all of the things that had gone well and the other that listed those that were problematic. I was desperate to find a more optimistic view of my career so I tried her idea. I soon found that the good almost always outweighed the bad on any given day. I credit my long tenure in the field of education to being able to view my world from all the angles. I soon saw that in sum my students and I were doing far better than I had imagined when my standard of measurement included both pluses and minuses.
In these long and seemingly endless days of isolation and talk of the death of innocent souls and our economy it would be understandable to focus only on the negative. I’m seventy one years old, a member of the group most likely to have a difficult time if I contract Covid-19. Even aside from the virus my shelf life is reduced with each passing year. I’m at a stage at which I want to grab life with enthusiasm. I’m not ready to pack it in and become the little old lady in the house on the corner who only leaves home for groceries, doctor appointments, and church. My calendar was full until I began wiping it clean a few weeks ago. I might be really sad if I were not to think about this whole situation from a positive point of view.
I won’t be going to Texas A&M University to see my grandsons Andrew and Jack receive their class rings this coming weekend, but that’s alright because the main thing is that they are eligible for a ring from one of the finest universities in the country. Nobody will take that away from them and so we can still celebrate this momentous occasion with profound respect for their determination and hard work. In the grand scheme of their educational journey the ring day is but one small stop along the way. It is the entirety of their intellect and dedication to a goal that matters, and in that regard I find great joy.
I will not accompany my brothers and sisters-in-law to their cabin in Drake, Colorado this month as planned. We will not enjoy adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park or leisurely strolls in Estes Park. Our nights will not be filled with precious time together competing in games of Jokers and Marbles, but what we do have that nothing will ever take away is the love and kinship that has bound us together through all kinds of moments. Another spring will come and perhaps we will journey together again. In the meantime we will be content with phone calls and Zoom conferences and photos on Facebook. There is no disease strong enough to break our bonds, and when I contemplate the relationship we have I know that trips together are secondary to the love we share.
My trip to Scotland in early June is not looking too promising. I have serious doubts that such tours will take place at least until later in the summer. I was quite excited about the whole thing and had even begun preparing for the trip as far back as January when I learned that we had been moved from the waitlist to being participants in the group. As the date for that glorious vacation draws closer I admit to feeling sad, but I feel confident that we can make it happen in a year or so when all of the uncertainties of Covid-19 have subsided. I just have to be a little patient before that great day comes.
In my period of isolation I made of list of glorious memories that I have enjoyed in the past. They are so numerous that it would be impossible to show them all but I decided to share a few of them and to encourage each of you to make one of those double lists in which you write down the most wonderful moments of your lifetime alongside a column listing your worries and concerns during the pandemic. It may help to see your many blessings actually listed. It may provide you with hope.
So here are just a few of my favorite things:
- I thought of riding my bicycle around Overbrook and singing my heart out with Lynda Barry and Susan McKenna when I was seven years old
- I remembered the Friday nights at my Grandma Ulrich’s house when I celebrated family with all of my aunts, uncles and cousins.
- I felt the joy and security of growing up on Belmark Street and going to church and school at Mt. Carmel.
- I pictured my mother tucking me in every single night and ending each day with her professions of love for me and my brothers.
- I recall meeting my husband, Mike, and going on our first date and knowing even then that he was “the one.”
- I can still hear the cooing of my little baby girls, Maryellen and Catherine, as I held them in my arms for the first time. Is there ever any happiness better than that?
- I laugh as I think about our family camping trips in our striped canvas tent. Those were the best of times.
- I can still feel the joy that overcame me when each of my seven grandchildren were born. Over the ensuing years I have watched them grow into remarkable individuals.
- I vividly see the eager faces of each of the students who have been in my care. I rejoice in their successes when I hear of them and think of them as children of my own.
- I love the conversations, gatherings, and quiet moments with my very dear friends who have encouraged me and walked with me over the years.
- I am grateful that my mother showed me how to keep God in my life. He is my comfort and my strength through all.