Instantly, pictures of certain scenarios in my classroom would fill my thoughts as my eyes fell on a particular picture. Recalling the place where a certain picture was located in my classroom or the face of a particular student or activity, brought tears to my eyes more than once. A gentle tugging at my heart strings took place as I read words like...
Way up high in the apple tree
Two big apples smiled at me
I shook that tree as hard as I could
Down came the apples... MMM they were good!”
Fall...a season that really speaks of letting go... leaves begin to fall and grass begins to die.
There were memories of the beautiful scents of homemade applesauce cooking in our classroom and the feeling of freedom felt on a hayride through the pumpkin patch in the brisk fall air.
There were photos of children making snowmen and ice skaters wearing mittens and toboggans as I traced my time with little children through the winter months and thought of the old radiators and winter storms that sent us home early from school.
And who could forget the days filled with loving preparation for Valentine's Day... with homemade folders designed to receive the loving wishes of classmates or find a student's protestations of love for a teacher? It was as if I could still hear their voices sounding across the classroom as they ripped open one tiny envelope after the other and stacked them, as I had instructed, in a pile on their desk. “Thank you, Emily... thank you Corey.... A moment when all disagreements seemed to cave to real devotion to one another.
The springtime photos of butterflies, tadpoles and a multitude of eggs designed by our Creator spoke to me of rebirth and the hope that always seemed to resurrect in our hearts as winter thawed into spring and we found ourselves releasing a butterfly from our butterfly garden into the warm atmosphere and watching it take flight. Where would it go? We so wanted to find it forever flitting around our playground so we could continue to call it our own.
I still remember finding a way to incorporate summer into the plans for our classroom as I took on a new theme of ocean creatures or found new and creative ways to introduce students to a world outside their own hometown. It will be hard to forget sitting around an artificial campfire with homemade guitars singing “Home on the Range” by the Riders in the Sky. Multicolored bandanas and cowboy hats covering their tiny heads, girls and boys sang at the top of their lungs and strummed the magic marker strings to their heart's content as a oneness settled into a circle of friends.
As I looked at the great pile of memories now resting on my garage floor, I was impressed that a whole picture of a year in the life as a teacher seemed to be lying there. The Happy New Year greeting jumped out at me from among the other paper remembrances of this season of my life. A turkey's head peeped out in a reminder to be thankful for all the beauty of this time. A game called Sink or Float caught my eye as I thought of how quickly I could sink into a great sadness and a feeling that I lost my identity when I left the classroom ten years ago.
As I contemplate releasing my tools of the trade, the materials I lovingly shared with hundreds of children over the twenty nine years of teaching, I realize the intangible gifts will live on forever somewhere in the hearts of students who have taken flight like the butterfly to other cities and perhaps countries of the world. Holding onto these as if they belonged in the corner of my garage would be like hoping that butterfly would never find the freedom to try out other flowers in faraway places. One thought gave me comfort as I left the task for some reflection yesterday afternoon.
As I sifted through folder after folder, my eyes would stop and my heart linger when confronted with one of my favorite activities in teaching. Dramatic play seems to be etched into my personal DNA. The Circus we did every year in my classroom, the Tillie the Tooth play and the Mother's Day Tea program.... These seemed to be my heart and soul. How could I let go of this part of my identity? I still have the little props we used.. the clown wigs and makeup.. the giant toothbrushes Tillie recommended to her friends and the words of poetry spoken to mothers and grandmothers, wiping tears from their faces, year after year.
I was comforted in knowing I've been able to share some parts of these experiences with my grandchildren but still it seemed as if my courage to release these to someone else hinged on the hope that I might find someone with the same heart and soul who could see these mere pieces of paper as something far more valuable than wall coverings. Something as prickly as the cactus, peering out from my Cowboy folder, seemed to pierce my heart. It was a sadness and fear that I was losing something of myself. Will I be forgotten or become someone else once I let go of these paper trappings of a former season of life.
My thoughts turned again to fall... the season we are experiencing presently. Johnny Appleseed...not confined to one place but traveling to new destinations leaving behind seeds that will continue to grow into new trees, new possibilities. I'm reminded of a verse in the Bible that says, “Unless a corn of wheat is planted in the ground and dies, it cannot be resurrected to new life.” (my paraphrase) As I let go of my connections to the past, I must have confidence, that God in His infinite ways of bringing new opportunities to our lives has a plan.
He can take the life lessons I learned from living in community with little people and every dramatic performance and write a new playbill for my life. It's almost as if the lights are dimming in one ring and the Ringmaster announces... “Ladies and Gentlemen... turn your attention to the Center Ring... something amazing and dramatically different is about to begin!”
Like the great trapeze artists, I let go and fly freely...like the butterfly to places unknown....and remember something was born in the hearts of all those who've been a part of it all. And so I will release these tangible things into the hands of someone God chooses. I expect they will, like the dandelion seeds blown by five year old lips, find good soil and grow prolific and dramatic blessings...
And as they are released I say in the words of Dr. Seuss...
“Oh, the Places these blessings will Go!”