She got all gussied up that first day of school. Newly coiffed, pretty outfit from off the rack at Hecht's, her new Hopi Mudhead Kachina Earrings dangling from each lobe. Ms. Terri, the neighbor who gifted the baubles, said they were supposed to bring good luck.
Well, our gal was headed back to high school for the first time in 20 years or so. The neighbors deemed silver and turquoise earrings a most fitting talisman for her journey.
She'd spent the week scribbling tentative lesson plans. Thinking back to her middling career as a high school journalist, she put her game face on, based on a set of memories filmy with the haze of time. She spoke, more than once, with her friend Carmen, a long-time teacher, but a career-switcher, too.
"Teenagers can smell fear. You have to stand strong. Be mean. Don't smile for the first 8 weeks."
Chirpy presenters at the new teacher seminars talked about "nurturing the need to learn in all of us." The vets like Carmen, who'd been in the trenches for years, talked in battle-scarred terms. Not quite manning the barricades, but something close to it.
Labor Day weekend came & went. Tuesday morning, she packed her lunch, picked up her quasi-professional looking briefcase, tossed both into the front passenger seat of the 1993 Taurus wagon Mom-Mobile, with too many funky smells ~ from stale sippy cups & spur-of-the-moment field-trip miles marching across the odometer ~ & headed back to high school for the second time.
The first year melted into the second, then the third. And so on, and so forth.
Next Tuesday, she'll greet her cherubs for the 16th year in a row. Sometimes, she thinks she's stuck in a rerun of "Groundhog Day." But many days, most weeks, she learns something. And the Hopi Mudhead Kachina Earrings are still very much a part of her back-to-school ritual.