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.