Where I’ve come from…

As I wrapped up my first year teaching, I remember sitting in the humid basement cafeteria of my school, surrounded by colleagues for an end of the year luncheon given by the PTA. As people finished up their lunches, they sat exchanging summer plans and end of the year stories until our principal stood to get everyone’s attention. She shared some remarks about a great school year and then pulled her reading glasses from the top of her head as she began to read from a small brown box.

These boxes became a tradition. Every year when members of our staff were planning to leave the school- for new jobs, for family, for new adventures- the principal chose a Willow Angel for them, as a gift.

I can picture what she might have looked like in the aisle at the card store, even now, as she carefully read each angel’s description, choosing just the right message for each recipient.

The moments, when the principal shared the angels with the departing members of our community, were often accompanied by tears and always ended with a heartfelt hug.

Ten years later, it was my turn to depart the school that had become my home, the colleagues that had become family. I was moving down the hill to become a literacy coach, standing on my own two feet, after ten years of soaking up knowledge and guidance from my first school community.

By this time, the angel principal had also moved onto new adventures in her own life and taken with her the tradition of angels.

So as I sat in the same humid cafeteria, for one last hoorah, my head felt fuzzy knowing my own goodbye was coming. Sure enough, as lunch was ending and the chatter hit a lull, our new principal got everyone’s attention. Before I knew it, it was my name she was calling as she walked toward me with a potted orchid. I held back a sob as she pulled me in for a hug.

And that was that. The tables were cleared and teachers headed back towards their classrooms to pack up. There were summer vacations to begin.

I left that day, orchid in tow, unsure of what lie ahead.

Today, nearly three years later, my orchid still lives on my kitchen windowsill where I faithfully give it a half cup of water every Saturday morning. This past week, as I anticipated the purple flowers bursting open from their quiet buds, I was reminded of where I have come from.

11 thoughts on “Where I’ve come from…

  1. Now that piece of writing blows away your oral version!! You gave the back story that made the piece move slowly and set the tone of change, remembering where you’re from and wondering where you’ll go! Yay you! Thanks for embracing change and sharing!

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  2. I loved reading about your journey starting from the first last day of school. I felt the anticipation of the moment. Then fast forward ten years, I got caught up in your journey and your reflection.
    And kudos to you that your orchid is still blooming after so many years.

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  3. Such a lovely gesture (and beautiful picture of the orchid). I wish we did something similar at our school. But short of retirement parties for long-time folks, it seems like people come and go with nary a notice (unless they are on your team). Hm.
    Kevin

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  4. What a lovely tradition!

    “I faithfully give it a half cup of water every Saturday morning.” If I didn’t understand the value of specific strategies before reading this line–you’d have convinced me. I wish my plants came with precise strategies for helping them…live…instead of ‘add water’.

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  5. I remember the emptiness I felt upon retiring from a school where I had taught for 22 years. This piece was so artfully written that I felt every word. I am glad you have your orchid to accompany you on your new journey and remind you of your earlier one. It’s so important to understand how the pieces of one’s life fit together.

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  6. We often fail to appreciate how important greeting and goodbye rituals are in a community, schools or elsewhere. Saying ‘goodbye’ is always fraught and with your story you let us feel all kinds of feelings from many, then not so many years ago. Your story reminds us to count our blessings as we let go of some things in order to take on new tasks while remembering whence we came. Thank you!

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  7. This is such a powerful reminder that we need to not only remember where we came from, but also look forward to the beauty that lies ahead of us. I loved reading this post.

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  8. What a wonderful reflection, carrying us from the end of the beginning to the current moment and through so many moments in between. Like UREADIREAD, I was struck as I read by the line “I faithfully give it a half cup of water every Saturday morning” – this post seems to be not just about rituals but also about caring. And, of course, that is evident in the comments from your colleagues on your posts. What a wonderful community you have.

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