Monday, November 11, 2013

What? No Boxes this Year?

On the Friday before Veterans Day, Dr V -- the professor whose office shares a small narrow hallway with mine -- stood in my office door and smiled.

I had a student in the office, but the look on Dr V's face was such that I had to interrupt our deep discussion and ask WHAT???

Melissa, he said in a deep voice accented with his breeze of African lilt, every year for Veterans Day, every YEAR, there are bags and boxes and lines of students filling the hallway with donations. What happened? 

I sit quietly and nod.

He's right. I haven't mentioned this. I figure people usually DON'T talk about what they aren't doing, so I'm completely in the scope of normal.

I didn't tell my classes this semester that all my other classes for uncountable semesters have pulled together for a variety of causes and events from sending boxes to soldiers at war to throwing dinner parties for local vets living in transitional housing. I didn't tell them about how much fun previous classes have had.

I didn't tell them anything because this semester they aren't doing it.

That's right. This semester I stopped having a service project and substituted it with a large research project, asking my students to prepare a slice of history "only they can tell."

Why? Good question. I have an answer.

Last Easter my students and I delivered over 50 baskets to the doorsteps of veterans living in transitional housing. We worked up a huge sweat going up and down the stairs bringing baskets of chocolate and toiletries and treats but no one complained, no one got tired.

On Easter Day I woke up extra early to bring baskets and bags and boxes to a group home of profoundly disabled adults where Alex, one of my students, lived.  We had a blast and I took a bunch of pictures.

That afternoon when I got home, my 9 year old son Zack walked up and looked me right in the eye.

"No Easter eggs, and no Easter basket this has been a strange Eater," he said, in a voice that sounded like he was trying to figure this out.

"Oh no," I said.

I wanted to say "Oh no I completely forgot to take care of you" but that sounded worse.

"So either the Easter Bunny is fake or he forgot me," Zack says and I realize the depth of my transgression.

I spent the day before Easter fixing up baskets for strangers. I didn't boil eggs, didn't hide eggs, didn't buy basket grass or Cadbury eggs.

Nothing. I lost myself in work and my students and forgot my son (and my daughter, who actually didn't mention a thing or complain, but ohhh she has her days, it just wasn't THIS day).

Zack won't always  be in elementary school, he won't always want to study vocabulary with me, talk about Minecraft with me and generally interrogate me about miniscule facts he doubts, but while it lasts I need to be open, I need to make space.

And that's why, this year on Veteran's Day, there were no boxes, no baskets, no dinners.

This year I'm working a little harder at being Zack's mom, every chance I can get.