Six weeks of silence is a long time to not write so tonight I say hello again and tell you about several special gifts I’ve received lately.
The main ones were in November after I returned to my middle school expository writing classroom after being absent for a week and present with my sister Karen during her last days of life. I found student created cards and poems and notes on my desk and they became the start of my precious purple notebook. Purple was Karen’s favorite color and the notebook contains cards of condolence and encouragement as my family and me make an expected but none-the-less difficult transition of having one fewer family member. Karen was a life who brought much to ours – with the exception of playing Monopoly, which is banned for the sake of family cohesiveness. But that’s another story.
And that wasn’t all; these same students – ages 11 through 14 – researched the symbolic color for my sister’s illness and wore it in solidarity to let me know they care. At those moments I was speechless – and grateful.
One student sat by me at my desk after going over grades and assignments.
Before we concluded our meeting, the student looked at me seriously and said directly, “Mrs. Lemine, you just have to remember that there are a lot of people who love you when you’re going through stuff like this.” This from someone who has lived through personal tragedy that took the lives of several loved ones but kept this life in tact. At that moment in time, I was awed – and grateful.
And then, the gifts of students expression around Christmas – some sent as directives from parents, others presented simply and quietly or left on a desk, another with instructions to not read the card until I was at home. I had my first taste of peppermint bark – homemade and rich beyond imagination. Bites of chocolate covered pretzels, popcorn snacks and Chex Mix, a handwritten note from two young ladies saying “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” There is the hand lotion I’m too cheap to buy for myself, three homemade peanut butter cookies, a Starbucks card which I promised to spend on hot chocolate for myself and a metal box shaped like a book with a miniature pink stuffed animal inside. The list doesn’t even include the unsolicited hugs and well wishes of young people who disconnected from their lives of adolescent challenge to enter into my world and give of themselves.
When I get back to school in January I plan to speak privately with each of them – and to tell them that each one is my favorite. Perhaps my gift of encouragement will hang on long enough to become a strong voice when voices from others question their worth and what they have to say. I know they have important topics about which to write and speak.
That’s probably one of the biggest gifts in my life – still being in middle school.