I ventured camping this weekend and while some called me crazy for sleeping outdoors in the sweltering Texas heat, it was the perfect thing to do after my first week back to school. Escapism at its best. And there was a breeze and we were on the water and I didn’t plan a single lesson, so it was quite delightful.
Cooper was also a fan of camping weekend. He swam and splashed and swam some more. He was only displeased that the company didn’t seem to fall for his big, adorable, “I see you have a sausage in your hands and I happen to love sausage” eyes.
I saw you across the old, funky smelling warehouse that was Tent City and I knew you would be mine. I was sixteen and often fantasized the day when camping with my family (all of our vacations meant camping) would no longer mean sharing a cramped space with my parents and brothers. You would be my independence, my privacy, my sanctuary!
With the help of my saved up paychecks, you came into my life for good. You were perfect. You were mine. Through the peak of my awkward adolescence, you protected me from the elements and the kicking and prodding of gross, smelly brothers. You stayed with me into adulthood for campouts, adventures, and a place to rest my head when we ran out of beds at large family gatherings.
You have traveled up and down the eastern coast, seen mountains, oceans, lakes and rivers. You shared a cool breeze when Mother Nature thought to offer one, and always kept me dry when her moods were not ideal.
You have been my outdoor home for half of my life and this weekend as I took stock of your wearing seams and rugged edges, I wondered how many adventures you still have in you. I am not sure it is many.
You have been a trusty companion and of all the tents in that old warehouse in the shady part of town, I would pick you every time.
A few weeks ago I had an appointment with the gynecologist. It was a routine visit, one that both my vagina and I are used to and I casually lay back on the table with a blanket draped over my pantsless legs while I waited for the doctor. He walked in carrying my chart, stopped, looked at me and pronounced loudly,
“What are you doing on birth control??”
What? Was there something wrong with my birth control? That’s not what that appointment was about. What?
“Why aren’t you having babies?? You should be having lots of babies!”
“Um, because I don’t have a husband?” I responded, wondering where this conversation was headed.
“That doesn’t matter! You should be having babies! You’re tall and skinny. Tall, skinny girls should have lots of babies.”
I mean, I was flattered but…WHAT? The HELL??
“haha, I’m a teacher, those kids are plenty for me.”
“So you know how cute they are! You should be having a whole brood!” He smiled and continued with my examination.
A brood??? Good God what was happening??
And suddenly my routine visit was not so routine because both my vagina and I had been working hard NOT to be full of broods and could this man be trusted or was he down there syringing a broods worth of sperm into me? And I didn’t know what to do because I am not equipped to handle Dr 1952 (who apparently did not have 1952 feelings on single parenting) and THERE IS NOTHING MORE VULNERABLE THAN HAVING YOUR FEET IN STIRRUPS AND A MAN FEELING AROUND YOUR VAGINA TELLING YOU TO HAVE ALL THE BABIES!
Healthy good or baby good??
“Just go out and get pregnant!” and he smiled even more and held his hands wide as if hugging all the babies of the world and walked out of the door.
I stayed there a moment and wondered if it had all been real. My vagina and I are so used to living in our strong, independent, liberal, girl power, age that we’d forgotten 1952 is sometimes still alive and well. I assured her that we would be having no babies any time soon and I wasn’t sure how many were in a brood, but we probably wouldn’t have that ever.
And then I shook my head and laughed because sometimes life is just ridiculous.
(this is a post I wrote for my classroom website on the eve of the first day of school)
“Never fear, the Phoenixes are here!”
Last year I sat on the carpet with a fresh group of students and with marker and paper in hand, we began to brainstorm what our class name would be. “Miss G’s Giraffe’s” and “Miss G’s Gerbils” made the list, but nothing seemed worthy of making the cut. Alliteration is fine and all, but this was to be our identity for the year and we needed something that felt right. And then one student raised her hand and said, “How about the Phoenixes. I mean, we aren’t always perfect and we definitely mess up and have bad days, but just like a phoenix, we always get to start over.”
Throughout the year, I watched as the Phoenix allowed us to forge incredible bonds and become so much more than the design on our shirt. We looked out for each other, celebrated successes and offered helping hands. We had each other’s backs because we were all in this together. We were Phoenixes.
Often at the end of the day when we checked in, a student might say, “I think we burned up today.” Because despite our best of intents, not all days are great. Being a student and a teacher means taking risks and trying new things and sometimes they are hard and sometimes we fail at them. Sometimes we are tired and patience wears thin and sometimes frustrations seem insurmountable. But at the end of the day when we give voice to all of these things, we remind each other that tomorrow is a new day. We are allowed to take risks and make mistakes because even amongst the ashes, our fires will spark and we will start over. And then we all huddle together and throw our hands into the center and chant,
“Rising from the ashes, Phoenixes on FIRE!”
Tomorrow is a new year and a fresh start for all of us. Today, as I clean my apartment, make meals for the week, and pick out my first day of school outfit, I keep thinking about all my Phoenixes. I think about those embarking on new adventures in 5th grade and those new faces I get to welcome tomorrow. I am excited for another year. I am excited to learn, explore, create, problem solve, calculate, write, share, read. I am excited for the risks, successes and even the failures. I am so excited to continue being a Phoenix because we are going to set this year on FIRE!
Turtle racing is real, y’all and while I thought I had stumbled upon some new new and novel idea, apparently it’s a ‘thing’ in lots of places, including Austin. It involves a ring, in the center of which are placed the turtles, marked with numbers. First one to make it outside the circle wins. For all it lacks in complication, it delivers in whimsy and delightful fun. I mean, it’s turtle races!
I am likely going to ask this question of my students in just over a week when I will once again set my alarm for ungodly early hours and spend my days with rowdy 10 year olds as I attempt to mold them into book loving, problem solving, Doctor Who loving nerds. But what exactly have I been up to this summer?
1. I traveled up to the northeast for family time and respite. It included a stay in the Adirondacks where I hiked and sat in waterfalls, slept in hammocks and read ALL the books. I also went to Maine and tried to help them out with their plethora of lobsters problem (I don’t think it’s really a problem). And then maybe got food poisoning from eating so many lobsters and puked in three different states while driving back home. I have no regrets. Because lobster.
2. My fish, Allen Ginsberg, committed suicide, which I was pretty sad about. So I replaced him with a pink and purple fish named Sylvia Plath. You know, just in case she has the same idea…
3. I broke my appendix. And then doctors removed it and now I have three super cool scars on my belly. Guys dig chicks with scars.
4. I was feeling blue one day, so I bought a Bearded Dragon and named her Elizabeth Bennet. I have no reasonable explanation for getting her, and even though I previously thought I hated all lizardy creatures, I am totally smitten with her. She will eventually live in my classroom, which is good because Cooper hates her. Also the crickets I feed her. He’s kind of beside himself.
5. I learned how to change a spark plug in my scooter and even though most people have rolled their eyes at me because it’s “super easy to change a spark plug”, I am super proud of myself because before this summer, I didn’t even know what a spark plug was. I’m so fucking handy!
6. I dyed my hair pink. Well, ‘atomic magenta’ to be exact. I love it so much even if I’m pretty sure my family doesn’t really know what to make of me.
7. I went to the beach and put my feet into the Texas Gulf. But just my feet. Because sharks.
8. I bet on a turtle race.
9. I watched an embarrassing amount of reality television. But I also read about a dozen books, so I don’t feel too bad about it.
10. I stargazed and howled at a full moon. I watched the sun rise and set. I danced and built blanket forts when it rained. I laughed and smiled more than I cried. I made grown-up adult decisions and sometimes ate a lot of fruit loops to deal with the consequences of some of those decisions. I listened to a lot of music. I slept. Sometimes I did nothing, just because I could. I checked off most of the things on my No Bummer Summer list (my appendix got in the way of a few of my plans. Glad that bastard’s gone!)
And now I am ready for another school year. I am ready to be a second-year teacher and perhaps not be as entirely overwhelmed as I was last year. I am excited for routine and purpose, even if it means having to set my alarm back to those ungodly early hours. Last year did a number on me and this summer brought me back to life. It feels good.
I have a hot pink butterfly net that my dad gave me for capturing butterflies and anything my heart desires. I wish I had one for all the thoughts swirling in my head so I could capture them and turn them into words.