I’ll Be Packing Kleenex

I’ll need to take an evening bag to the graduation ceremony for my school this year. I’m one of the staff advisors on the grad committee, so I have a hand in many of the details involved in the commencement and the following dinner and dance. Given my participation, grad doesn’t sneak up on me at the end of June. I bought the dress I plan to wear to the festivities while I was in Kuwait over spring break, and I am pumped to wear a coral frock that disguises my “problem areas” with an efficacy only matched by my television-watching rainbow afghan.

The one problem with my dress is its lack of pockets. I’m going to need a big handful of Kleenex for grad this year, which is a new experience for me–hang on and I’ll explain–and I have absolutely nowhere to put my paper hankies in my new dress. Normally, I’m not big on emptying my lacrimal glands in public. I prefer to retain my bodily fluids as much as possible when people are watching. This year, unfortunately, I am going to be leaking all over the damn place.

I realized my potential for tears this past week at school. Granted, it had been a tough week for several reasons, not the least of which was Sherman’s unexpected injury, and I was exhausted. There I was, making my daily near-sprint to the staff bathroom before first period (you could set a clock by my walnut-sized bladder) when a pair of students I have known for years smiled and hollered a “good morning” my way. I’ve been teaching at the same school for six years, and those ladies were in the first class I ever taught. Since grade seven, I’ve taught them art and/or English pretty much every year: now they graduate in four weeks. I got to thinking that in less than a month, these “kids” are going out into the wide world. I realized they would no longer be part of the landscape I traverse on a daily basis.

Suddenly, my view down the hallway got blurry. Like something out of The Twillight Zone, all the lines got wavy and the colours ran together like the time I spilled a Diet Pepsi on my daytimer. At first I thought my number was up, and I would die wearing underwear I don’t really like while my house desperately needs vaccuuming and my tomato plants haven’t even started blooming. I’ve always said I’d rather not see death coming for me, anyway. Then I realized the culprit was my big, soft heart. To cover it up, I pretended something had landed on my left eyeball; I’m even smooth first thing in the morning.

It’s a big deal when a teacher’s first class graduates. Because I teach at a 7-12 school, I am lucky enough to know my kids for six years, so saying goodbye to them is extra difficult. Remembering them as teensy grade seven kiddos and comparing them to the young adults they’ve (it seems) suddenly become is unexpectedly emotional for me. Over the six years I’ve taught these kids, I’ve been along for the ride as they’ve learned those big lessons that have nothing to do with the official curriculum. I’ve seen them celebrate their proudest accomplishments, break bad habits, and establish the kind of people they hope to be as adults. For some, I’ve been along for the ride as they’ve been tempered by the heartbreak of divorce, death, and the laying to rest of first loves. Teaching school is about growing people as much as it’s about curriculum, after all, and that’s the greatest privilege of this gig.

So, “my” kids graduate at the end of June. I will need Kleenex and the proverbial stiff upper lip to get through the ceremony. Ever the practical woman, I bought a super-waterproof mascara and eyeliner to keep me looking snazzy even with the anticipated leakage. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go mince a couple onions to test the staying power of my new makeup. We shall call this the wet-eyed dry run.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Cinderella says:

    Blubber away. The kids will secretly like it and feel like they really mattered to you.
    Plus, they’ll remember it forever and fondly that you cared enough to let it show that you will miss them.
    It also teaches them that its okay to be sentimental:)

    1. You’re right, Cinderella. I think so many kids are taught that being sentimental–and blubbering–indicates that a person is either a drama queen or a wimp, when it really just shows a person’s humanity. Those kids really do matter, so cry I shall.

  2. Fabulous – “wet eyed dry run”! You are always so clever with words!
    I empathize completely. As a Gifted and Talented teacher, I’ve seen a few classes of students make their way from Kinder to 5th, only to have to watch them leave to go to middle school. It is so hard! One of my “Kinders” graduated from high school this year, and honored me by selecting me as her favorite teacher for her cum laude ceremony. Talk about needing waterproof mascara!

    1. Thank you for the compliment. My dad has always said I have the “gift of gab.”

      I think there should be some occasions when a person just skips the makeup and wears a Jessica Simpson mask or something that doesn’t run. I seem to cry kerosene and turn even the most waterproof eye goop into liquid charcoal. I may look into that mask; I’ll just wear my school nametag so people can identify the new blonde sobbing in the third row.

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