Bridging The Gap

I could think of no better way to start Alice’s photo challenge and honor the name she’s given it, than to share this photograph of Admiral Bernard “Chick” Clarey Bridge.

Admiral Bernard Chick Clarey Bridge

Admiral Bernard “Chick” Clarey Bridge

This photograph was taken from the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri (Mighty Mo) from its Ford Island dock in Pearl Harbor. In front of you are the “tomb stones” of the battle ships sunk on December 7th, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The building you see off the front of the ship is the U.S.S. Arizona viewing platform. Beyond that is the Admiral Bernard “Chick” Clarey Bridge. Please click on the photo to enlarge it.

Close to a mile in length, this bridge is one of six in the world built partly with a fixed structure and partly with a floating (pontoon) section. It connects Ford Island, which sits in the middle of Pearl Harbor, with Honolulu. Not just its size and the history of the area make this bridge special. It also bears the fame of coming in under-budget and ahead of schedule!

Thanks, Alice. This was a great idea!

When Is ‘Enough’?

This morning a NY Times article reports that many people are tired of 9/11 tributes. Enough has become too much. They want us all to just forget and move on. Yeah.

Tell that to the people in the twin towers; the people in the pentagon; and those on flight 93. Tell it to the policemen, firefighters, paramedics and other citizens who gave their lives while attempting to save others. Better yet, tell it to their families, those people forever waiting for loved ones that will never come home. Tell it to the sons and daughters who lost a parent — or two. Tell it to the mothers, fathers, wives and husbands who wait in vain for the sound of a voice or the gentle touch from the hand of their beloved.

If, as a nation, we really wanted to put the memories of 9/11 to rest, wouldn’t our energies better be spent working toward peace? What we should be saying ‘enough’ to is hate and violence. Then those who died in the attacks and the aftermath of 9/11 — including the soldiers still dying now — really could rest in peace.

In the meantime may we always remember that privilege should breed responsibility. Unfortunately for too many Americans all it seems to produce is insouciance.

Letters From My Students

The students leaving Lincoln-Edison go on to middle school. This is their last year on our campus. For many of the students ours is the only school they have ever attended. Mr. K. worked with the kids the last several days of this school year helping them make thank you cards for the many teachers who have touched their lives. Here are excerpts from many of the cards I received:

You’re like the mom I never had. — Rosa G.

You are the coolest and greatest teacher. –Selena G.

If it weren’t for you I wouldn’t have been almost smart. — Monique V.

You were always funny when I got to be with you, so I bet you were funny everyday. — Aldrae D.

I liked when you read to us every morning. I liked when you made us laugh. I liked that when we came hot from P.E. you sprayed us with water. —Joel G.

I will always remember you for the stories that you told. —Jerry M.

You taught me lots of things I needed to know. —Cynthia S.

You are fun. — Jacob F.

You were respectful when I barely camed here all scared. You were kind when my English was no so good. You helped me be better. — Jorge P.

I will always rember how funny you are. Thank you for teaching us in your funny way. — David P.

You are funny and silly. I really enjoy everything you do. But under everything else, I will always remember that you picked me for Student of the Month. — De’Brisha S.

I loved it when you taught me how to use my imagination to make a wonderful story. — Monica P.

You have encouraged me to write better stories and to check my writing for blunders in spelling and puncaution. — Broderick T.

I will always rember how to write in cursive. Thank you for buying us a pizza party. You rock! — Edward G.

Everyday you help me. When I am struggling you just know to come. I am surprised by what you’ve done. — Jimmy Z.

I learn much English from you. I so sorry I not can see you anymore. In my little English I know, I know that I is thankful of you. — Rosa H.

The Last Good-Bye

They arrived this morning freshly scrubbed, pressed and ironed, looking starched and nervous. It was strange and wonderful to see them out of uniform. The boys wore slacks and dress shirts. Several of them even donned ties. The girls wore swirling dresses. Curls bounced where pigtails had been. Tennis shoes gave way to high heels. I recognized them only by their giggles, which hadn’t changed.

Pictures were taken until all we could see were flashing blue dots dancing before our eyes. Phone numbers were passed around. Summer plans were discussed. “I will never forget you,” promises were exchanged.

Then came time for the ceremony. The fifth grade teachers lead the procession. As the students entered Dommanick Hall their parents stood and began to clap — and already my eyes filled with tears. A few deep breaths as we took our places on the stage, and I was fine. Then the principal started to speak.

The Principal and I started at Lincoln together. It was her first school. I was one of her first hires. We did not always see eye-to-eye and some of our encounters were rocky, but today when she stood to speak about her five wonderful years at Lincoln, we were in complete accord. She, too, is leaving this year. She announced her departure with a catch in her voice, and by the time she reached the part of her speech where she spoke of remembering the graduating class as kindergartners, half the room was crying with her — and a few tears escaped my control.

Because I am Ms. A, my class was presented first. I kept it together for hand-shaking and hugs. We made it through, each and everyone of us, without a mistake or a sniffle. I was proud of them. I was proud of me. Of course, there were 4 more classes to run the reception line gauntlet, but I had made it through the hardest part. I thought.

The other Ms. A’s students were next. Her class was as emotional as mine was stoic. They came up raining tears and made their teacher cry, which — in turn — choked me up. Then I looked out at my class and saw several of my girls sitting still and straight with silent tears rolling down their cheeks.

I remained standing, smiling proudly, shaking hands, but occasionally a tear slid down my cheek. Mr. K’s kids were emotional, too. Several of them launched themselves into my arms for hugs and tears. They did the same to the other teachers.

Ms. P., also leaving this year, started crying before her first student was called forward, so of course her kids were teary. More wet hugs. And then it was Mr. S’s turn. He hugged his students — each and every one –and offered each of them a personal comment about how much they’d meant to him. He cried. His kids cried. We exchanged wet hugs and I dripped a couple more tears.

Then, thankfully it was over. The future graduating class of 2014 was officially declared 6th graders and dismissed. That’s when my class lost it. They came then, throwing themselves into my arms, red-faced and crying, “I don’t want you to leave!”

I comforted them. I posed for endless pictures, chatted with parents and finally escaped to my room 40 minutes later. Through it all I spilled only a few more tears. Vanessa came to the door. She had left something behind. Could she pick it up? The answer was yes, of course.

She gathered her purse and a gift another child had given her. As she walked to the door, she thanked me for being her teacher and said it had been a wonderful year. At the threshold she paused and looked back. “I am not saying good-bye. My little sister still goes to this school, so I will see you next year.” Then our eyes met. She remembered I was leaving, burst into tears and rushed back for a hug. A couple more tears escaped me, but even then I did not really cry.

Shortly after Vanessa left, Jimmy came to the door. “Ms. A. I forgot my report card.” I gave it to him. He slowly folded it like a pamplet and stuffed it into his back pocket. Jimmy was my newest student. He was only with me this last quarter. He stood there for a long time with his head bent, then finally he looked up at me. “I never had a nice teacher before,” he said. “Thank you for liking me.” He fell into my arms and burst into tears.

And so did I.

Too Much

At the end of each work day I am so tired, it is all I can do to drag myself into the house and package the eBay products that sold during the day. Then I list a few more — and suddenly the evening is shot and I am crawling into bed for a few hours sleep before something jerks me awake.

Sunday afternoon I stumbled into my room for a nap. My head hurt. My eyes burned. I needed sleep.

I fell across my bed and collapsed. Fifteen minutes later I heard shouting and cursing. It sounded close. Too close. In my yard close. I rolled off the bed and looked out the window. Some dude was trying to climb the chain-link fence that surrounds my backyard. It’s a low fence and I think he would have made it easily if it weren’t for the two cops holding on to him.

They lifted the guy off the fence and spread him across the hood of my car. Lovely. They spent about an hour in my driveway before they tucked him in their car and rolled away. After that I couldn’t get to sleep. Every little noise would jerk me to wakefulness, and I had terrifying dreams.

Monday at school we had the annual 5th grade barbecue. Hot dogs, sodas, kickball and 104F heat. I drug my butt home to a huge number of sales — that’s not a complaint, but I had to work rather then rest — and no air conditioning. I called the office and they had someone here within 20 minutes. He looked at the swamp cooler and told me it was an easy fix. All it needed was a new drive belt. That was the good news. The bad news was, he didn’t have one and since it was after 5, he couldn’t get one until morning.

So, I suffered through packaging and listing in 104F temps with no air. Luckily I do have a small unit in my bedroom window and it kept my bedroom cool enough that I could sleep — but again I had those horrid dreams. Cops, sirens, screaming, guns — I don’t need to watch TV, it’s all right there behind my eye-lids.

I need sleep. I need rest. I need school to be over.

Today we had the practice culmination ceremony. Traditionally at the end of the program I take the mic and introduce the outgoing students to their parents as next year’s sixth graders, and the graduating class of ____ (add seven to the current date). Today — at practice — I stepped up to the mic, had the kids stand and face where the audience will be — and couldn’t speak. My throat closed up. Tears filmed my eyes. I realized there is no way I am going to be able to do this for real on Thursday without seriously crying.

Usually the year end ceremony makes me a bit misty, but this is for real. This is good-bye. They won’t be bopping into my room next year to sit on the table and tell me about life in sixth grade. I won’t be there.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am looking very much forward to the next phase in my life, but while looking so earnestly ahead, I forgot how very much I hate saying good-bye.