“Star people don’t cry. They shed light,” said Archie to Star Girl. The statement hinted of saguaro, Senior Grandote, Don Miguel Ruiz, and ancient Toltec wisdom. Susan was missing Leo and feeling sorry for herself. I was driving home, likewise, listening to this favorite Spinelli audio book and empathizing with Star Girl. I was depleted, like an empty happy wagon minus the pebbles: Sad. Lonely. In another Universe in my head. Archie’s words just stuck. Like truth and taxation. Like a spit dripped Nerf dart to a target. Like tiny elf owl feather to an infinity scarf. Like snowflakes on a Christmas sweater. Like a perpetual motion machine cough.
Susan Caroway could have been in the passenger seat next to me. Wasn’t she? I kinda wished she was, or that someone like her was. I do a lot of driving and pondering on my own. Audio book characters serve as surrogate companions. They feel gifted and present. So much so, that I was caught up in the realness of story and like deja vu, discovered I was driving too slowly in the fast lane and had lost the last five miles or so of winding canyon road.
It’s hard to believe, because ten hours earlier I was pulled over by a UHP. Why would I speed to school?! Exactly. School days leading up to Christmas are crazy. The closer to Christmas break we are, the farther from school I feel I want to be. Ask any teacher about stress levels surrounding the holidays. Ask them about families and kids in crisis. Ask them about the frenzy of hundreds of little Tesla machines uncontrollably firing, grounding and grinding on teachers’ last nerves. It’s all very challenging and wonderful. 🙂
“Where were you going so fast?” asked the trooper. “To school,” I replied. “I went to the store to get some stuff for a holiday project.” I didn’t tell him I’d just bought a bag of kitty litter to fill Mexican paper lanterns. I didn’t own up to my Starbucks addiction. Um, and I didn’t admit that I drive 80 mph on I-80 almost every day.
The nice highway patrol man took a long time running my plate, license, and registration. His car headlights glared in the side mirror. It was blinding so I covered my eyes which made it difficult to see the trooper approach from the front passenger side window. I deserved a ticket, but hoped to luck out. So when he returned and kindly gave me a warning, I was incredibly grateful. Consequentially, I drove under the speed limit for the remaining ten miles. This while mirror checking and resisting the incredibly strong natural urge to pass slow-moving semi-trucks.
There was a time that being pulled over would have reduced me. When I was about 25, I cried for this reason. I was speeding on highway 248 into Park City. I was driving the old Green Machine, a Chevy Malibu with pretty bald tires. It was a slick snowy day much like this one. It was a feel bad morning. Fortunately, I don’t cry anymore when I’m pulled over. I think it was an authority figure thing. Not much phases me now. Or maybe I am getting a little better at letting go. Dunno. Things just…..are. And thank God for deep breathing!
So after a wonderfully joyous, exhausting day of teaching and an afternoon of swim team practice, Star Girl and I were tired, teary-eyed and missing dear friends. I was missing a friend who used to work at my school, the “lmnop tree”, pronounced /el oh men oh pee tree/. She was and is bendable light and shone around the corners of each day. For about 2,000 wonderful beginnings, she scattered sunshine and flooded the place with warmth and service. In and out of doorways, she sparkled, advocating fearlessly for children and teachers. In hind sight, I think I took that goodness for granted and I regret it.
It isn’t the same at school now. The place feels hollow. Empty. Even when full of children. It lacks the luster she created. Sometimes when I stay late to prep and all I can hear is the copy machine over a distant droning vacuum, it feels haunting. It saddens me to watch an amazing school culture my friend created with us slip away into something like the Nothing. ( I try to remember school is what “we” make it, of course, but I forget sometimes.)
The more things change, the more they stay the same? Yes and No. Sure, this week the library smells like a confectioner’s dream come true. The annual 3rd grade gingerbread tour of homes is up and on display. Teachers are churning out festive projects almost daily along the count down to Christmas. Sounds of children’s program song rehearsal fills the gym and spill into the entry.
The disciple-ship continues to move on. It sails through calm and wild waters. It rocks and pitches. It creeps, and stalls, drifts, and continues on, with or without you, in joy and tears, in smiles and indifferences, with work and play, Art, and song, and with Love and Learning. In God she trusted. In Him she loved. With us, she served and taught by example. I really miss her.
Another Christmas checks in as a much-loved fixture, Charlie Brown Christmas tree bows simply on the office counter. It droops under the weight of the World. The misfit Charlie Brown rests below its few bare brown branches. He smiles, but inwardly he is crying, as many of us do. Charles Shulz’s standing metaphor reminds us to keep the faith as we Trust in God and keep safe His children. We give, not because of who we are but because of what He did. He gave His Son. God loves all of us unconditionally and we should love each other too. Not because of what we do, but because of who God is and because of the Law of Attraction, the Law of Love. My friend knew this and grew a Godly love in our little school. She had a passion for God and compassion for people, especially little ones.
My Love, Star Girl audio CD ends and ejects as if Pearl is sticking out her tongue at me. I feel the morning wash my mind and heart like a prayer. I’m left feeling peaceful and all I want for Christmas is a friend in Jesus and a friend like Star Girl, who just keeps loving the misfits. I glance over at the passenger seat which is occupied with plain, unscented kitty litter plus all the signs of someone who lives in her car. And then Christmas bells ring in Advent and a countdown of the days ’til Christmas. May our days be full of smiles, wishes, surprises, and best of all…the gift of children!
Merry Christmas and a Joyous 2018!