Well, it's official. As of August 1st I am retired. It's not the way I had hoped it would end or exactly when I should have been done, but the, to use a word very popular right now, pivoting that came with this year, and I mean inclusive of this school year starting last September, just kept making things more difficult. From a power outage on Friday the 13th in September, the uncertainty of my principal's return from a personal leave, my mother's stroke, my sister's death, the misinformation I was given about my Medicare enrollment, and of course, COVID 19 and working from home for 4 months. I intended to retire at the end of my contract which would have been June 30, but making a long story short, turning 65 on March 31st actually affected that date and thus I had to work one additional month.
Our interim principal was a Godsend. She not only wanted to make sure that our 5th graders who were moving on had a send-off, she did the same for the teacher that retired from our school and me.
The staff had gathered in the lobby, all masked of course and 6 feet apart, getting ready to go out to line the street to wave good-bye to the 5th grader's driving by in their parent's cars. Just before that, they handed us a bouquet of flowers, balloons, and a gift bag and had us pose for a picture and we all rushed outside. I was speechless of course, fighting back the emotions and joined them outside. That night I wrote my note to them:
You all caught me speechless yesterday.
If I could have spoken I would have told you that when we left SBS on March 16th my thoughts were then that there could be someone among us that we would never see again – a casualty of the virus. So I tried to soak in your faces. You were smiling but still showing worry and confusion. We had already been through a lot this year and making the best of it. Planning for baseball opening day was in the works. When we all said good-bye that day, I’m sure none of you thought it would be for so long.
I tried to keep in touch by alternately posting daily messages of hope and some really bad, groan-worthy jokes and I hope that helped a little. I hope you’ll “store” that as a good memory of these past few months. I will “store” it along with all the memories of the past 17 years I’ve been at SBS.
Speaking of memories, some of you know that I’ve always said that I was going to write a book about all the weird, wonderful, and sometimes frustrating things that went on here. I don’t think that will come to actual fruition but I do have some stories written down and even a title - “Everyone Wants to be Goldilocks” because you know that Goldilocks wanted everything to be just right. And while there’s a bit of sarcasm in that title, I hope you know that it was always my goal to make things just right for you all. I’m proud of the fact that I believe my successes at that far outweigh my failures.
I’ve already begun to miss all the daily interactions with you. Not the work-related duties, but the little and sometimes long conversations. The stories of your families and your classrooms. Hearing about your joys and sharing in your sorrows. Listening to your frustrations and hopefully knowing when you needed someone just to listen and when you were asking for advice. And that goes both ways because you listened when I shared the good, the bad, and the frustrating.
I wish that I could hug you all but aside from it not being allowed right now, I would definitely be crying and I’m no Chrissy Teigen when I cry. So it’s also a good thing that I read all your congratulation messages alone with my box of “soft” tissues (which BTW I always offered Frank to have in his office when bad news was coming) because you have all been such a big part of my life, and, well, these lyrics from Wicked say it all…………
It well may be
That we may never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way
Our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine
By being my friend(s)
Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better
And because I knew you…………
I have been changed
Thank you. Thank you for the gifts you gave me, and more importantly, thank you for your friendship and love.
Once again the principal came through with more surprises on my last day in the office. She brought in more balloons last Thursday, flowers, a mascot, and made me the t-shirt that says "School's Out Forever" "Retired and Loving It". She bought lunch for the three of us and the custodian and the secretary made a cake. They also programmed our new school sign with the message up above.
She sent out an e-mail to the 12-month staff that was working in the district and to our school staff to come at 4 and "clap me out". Once again, I was overwhelmed. Twenty and more showed up - all masked to bid me farewell.
I can't say it wasn't hard to catch my breath as I drove away. There are a lot of good memories that I have of working there. But I knew that it was time and I am really looking forward to someday being able to go back and give the hugs that I so longed to share.
My heart is heavy that I will not be there to help as they all face the challenges of the new school year and that heaviness applies to the fear that I have for my daughter and son-in-law as they get ready to go back to their school, and my grandchildren too.