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Archive for January, 2008

I have an assignment! Read Part 1 of Gulliver’s Travels for Thursday night class. Woo Hoo!

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New Year’s Observation

Note: I know it’s nearly a week after the New Year, but I started it last week and finished it now and in the spirit of living up to my statement at the end, I felt I had to post despite the tardiness.
On her blog, a friend mentioned that she’s never felt anything particularly new about this time of year, and despite its name and the requirement of a new calendar, I have to agree. I’ve concluded that I’ve always felt this way and just couldn’t reconcile my true feelings with the expected treatment of New Year’s. It’s the time-honored and revered point of origin for innumerable resolutions, the quintessential line through time marking the convergence of then and now, potential and kinetic, before and after.
It’s funny because just this afternoon I lamented the absence of snow this holiday season – and for many past seasons – and that if only there were a white winter to enjoy I might not have to drudge through the next three months of gray dormant tedium. A mere twelve hours later, a fresh and substantial blanket of white fluff silently mocks my pain.
The point, though, is that I’m about to go on about how January 1 doesn’t feel new to me now – and indeed hasn’t ever felt new – but now looking out my window and on the hour’s drive home from over-the-river-and-through-the-woods, my world shimmers under something new as if in rebuke of the earlier complaint.
Except that the complaint remains. The calendar may disagree and I’m sure all the partyers in Times Square can argue otherwise, but January 1 didn’t feel much different to me than December 31. Rather I feel that new things have started before anything else has finished, and I sit in the middle of this no man’s land of incompletion.
The observation, then, is that clearly not much thought went into assigning January the duty of bringing in the New Year. Aside from the ironic timing of the snow and my motivation to write about this, there is nothing new in January. Even the snow isn’t new; there’s always snow in January. I harbor no inclination to make sweeping life-altering resolutions during this month of dreariness that I know I will breach before the close of the month. Most of nature is hibernating in one way or another during January. Why shouldn’t I? Nothing grows or produces life now; birdsongs are silent; even the stray cats are out of sight. I hate January. Everything is trapped.
New Year should begin at an actual point of transition in the cosmos. The vernal equinox makes the most sense because it’s the time when the earth and animals are waking up. Things are new…hm…makes sense.
So I’ve set up a few placebos to provide the newness I’m not experiencing around me. College begins this Tuesday with Medieval History, followed by Intro to Critical Reading on Thursday. Bible study resumes this Wednesday and the new there is my resolution to abandon the skepticism and do the work for real. Also, I’m exercising; for real, I’m sick to death of the poor image I have of myself and I know I can change it and it’s about damn time I stop making excuses and being lazy.
Enough of my thoughts on the New Year because as far as I’m concerned life goes on as usual with out all the fuzzy-wuzzies of self-inflicted higher expectations that weren’t realized last year and likely won’t be this year. It comes down to decision and I’ve decided I’m going to work hard.

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I had an interesting déjá vu this morning during which I concluded that elementary school secretaries often operate invisibly.
I moved to Pennsylvania from Florida in January 1988. It was the second half of first grade and my third school of the year. I knew nothing of overnight snowfalls, salt trucks, or snow days. I don’t remember the date of my first snow day, but I hadn’t been at my new school for very long. Everything was still foreign and I walked to school alone.
I do remember tromping through the snow that morning, not so blissfully unaware of the serene barrenness. It never occurred to me to notice the absence of other students walking to school or the missing crossing guards. The only thing I was beginning to notice was that despite its enchanting sparkly beauty, the snow was cold and melting into my socks. (I didn’t know about snow boots then either.)
I arrived – with sloppy sopping feet – at a dark and empty school; I stood in the front entrance for a long time before I walked to my classroom which was also dark and empty.
There was only one light on in the whole place casting its warm glow on the gray linoleumed hall floor. I guess I walked past the secretary’s office on my way to the classroom. She followed me and met me at the door where I couldn’t decide what to do.
We went back to her office and I imagine she called my mom to explain the situation and clue us all into the novelty of two-hour delays and cancellations and how one becomes apprised of both. I was relieved that I didn’t have to trudge back home through the puddly snow. We laid out my socks and shoes on the radiator and I read books with the secretary for two hours until everyone showed up.
It’s notable to me now because this morning my daughter had her first snow delay and we almost missed it. Casey and Evelina were on the way out the door when the memory seized me and I rushed to the computer searching for delays. And there it was – 10 am start.
But then I was conflicted. Many of the other schools mentioned their special circumstances for Kindergarteners: “modified AM Kindergarten,” “no AM Kindergarten,” and stuff like that, but her school didn’t say anything about Kindergarten and I didn’t know what that meant for her. But I knew who would know!
The secretary. I called her, she was friendly and helpful and delighted to be so.
I’ve learned a lot about living with snow since I was seven. This morning my daughter wore tall snow boots so she wouldn’t arrive with wet feet. I packed her an extra pair of shoes so she didn’t have to clunk around in the outerwear all morning, and we caught the delay just in time.
The circumstances have changed, but after twenty years, it’s still the unnamed secretaries who made these snow days possible.

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