How the Things we Keep, Keep Us

May 12, 1974

“Dearest Jody,

I’m writing you today to say, “I’m glad I’m your mom.”

I am now, and always have been, so proud of you, Jo. Can’t remember a single moments’ “trouble” that you’ve ever been in or any periods of anxiety that you have caused. Sure there were minutes of panic…like the time Colleen hit you with the baseball bat. But so far as the really important things like your character and independence and industriousness are concerned, you’ve never caused me any doubts.

With much love, Mom”

~~~~~~~~~~

As a newly retired teacher—first Fall without students—woohoo!—I can FINALLY get to some gargantuan projects that I’ve wanted to tackle for like ever. Seriously; we’ve lived in our house almost 24 years—that’s over half of the time I’ve been married.

One such task was culling through almost a lifetimes’ worth (well, since I was 18) of old letters I’ve saved.

What a treasure trove it has yielded–sparks of memory fanned into flame, words from the the past that have fluttered across my vision, sadness and melancholy and sweet joy all rolled into one.   It has been a sobering experience, actually.

The process took about three weeks. Boxes everywhere, piles of old letters threatening to topple and spill, pounds and pounds of ‘who in the world is this card from?’ and “who is Katie and why do I need this Valentine from 2nd grade?” ending up in the Recycle Bin. A very satisfying activity, especially when I downsized my paper estate to two medium sized boxes.

I love to write and send cards and letters. Still. And better still is the joy and pleasure of receiving a handwritten letter in the mail; it’s like finding a sweet surprise.  Saving and keeping old (and new) cards and letters is preserving the bedrock of the past. A bedrock of shared history, a running record of highs and lows and in betweens—the events that make up the everything that is our life.

I have letters my husband wrote when we were first courting, then engaged.  He is effusive in his love for me and his love for Jesus (I think He loved Jesus more—still does).  There are intimations of some of the challenges we faced back then in our Jesus People days, but nothing fazed him. He was a little starry eyed (I’m sure I was, too.)

The most precious letters are those from my mother who died over 30 years ago. Reading her thoughts was a bittersweet experience. Sweet because I didn’t remember all the kind things she’d said to me (like those above), but bitter because of course, she’s gone.  I think my grandchildren will enjoy getting to know their Great Grandma Helen a little bit when they read her letters, too, someday.

Continue reading “How the Things we Keep, Keep Us”

That Still, Small Voice

One of the best things about teaching Elementary School as a substitute teacher is hanging out with second graders (my favorite grade–innocent, love their teachers, AND they can usually tie their shoes). The other thing about Second Grade is that every February pretty much every teacher talks about penguins.  Were it not for this exposure to the subject, I would not be aware of the … Continue reading That Still, Small Voice

When we are Named and Known

I silently knock on the Kindergarten door, helper for the day in my Assistant Teacher role.  I love Kindergarten.  I did my student teaching there—sang a LOT of songs and played games and sat on the floor and learned words. Today is one of those days—a learning day—except I am the student. I teach in a very diverse school district.  The population we serve has changed significantly … Continue reading When we are Named and Known

The Power of a Simple Question

I had the surprise privilege of teaching a short (four week) Summer School gig for a friend recently–and I do mean privilege. He asked if I could take over his Reading classes at a private Korean Academy. After thanking God for the answer to prayer for meeting a financial need, I then got VERY happy about the subject matter–what’s not to love about getting paid … Continue reading The Power of a Simple Question

A Closet Full of Ping Pong Balls (or How to Survive Five Years in Spec Ed)

C. is after her purse in the back corner cabinet of the classroom. She’s got just a minute to reach for something and turns her head to answer a question, her back to the cupboard. Out comes a cascade of bloodshot eyeball ping pong balls, tumbling to the floor…..oh, it’s just another day in Room 3, where we know how to put the ‘special’ in … Continue reading A Closet Full of Ping Pong Balls (or How to Survive Five Years in Spec Ed)

Well {a #poem}

“That’s a deep subject,” I’d oft repeat, to chide the speaker for such a lame, one-word comment. Well, indeed. I’m in it at the bottom, Swimming in my own tears drowning in grief that I must haul up bucket by bucket. But the hauling is needful– the bucket-at-a time tending a necessary process. The grief needs to be felt and measured–lived through to measure me— … Continue reading Well {a #poem}

On the Night Before the First Day of School

I’m awake behind closed eyes noting the whooshing sounds of far away freeway noise (at 2 in the morning? seriously?) and a howling, train-whistly cry rises in the distance through my open night window. The coyotes are stirring, too. The Psalmist David writes of being awake through the watches of the night and I wonder if he lay there with thoughts of four year olds … Continue reading On the Night Before the First Day of School

Atticus to Zeppelin

Classroom photo, mine. 2012 “Recess teacher!!” That would be me and anyone else over 3 feet tall who has a whistle. “Hey guys, just so you know, my name’s Mrs. Collins”, flashing my cartoon-y fish logo with my fancy-ish name. “What’re your names?” “I’m Atticus, this is Zeppelin.” “Well, those are some pretty big names,” I remark, and proceed                … Continue reading Atticus to Zeppelin