School Days

graduation_pic.jpg I have taught English for over twenty years and the reading, planning, grading, and yes, the teaching consume much of my waking time from August 28th until June 20th every year.  I have never had children of my own. But I guess you could say, I'm "the village." I have taught about 3200 students in all, ranging from the kids whose mothers clean the homes and care for the children in Santa Monica to the kids in Santa Monica whose moms employ the other moms.

I have taught future lawyers, doctors, rabbis, curators, filmmakers, poets, art historians, scientists, and I have taught future crack addicts, pregnant teens, suicides, and criminals.  I have taught the ambitious and the indolent, the focused and the preoccupied, the optimistic and the pessimistic, the successful and the not so successful. 

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military-vintage-sailor-pants-300x300Shopping for vintage clothes was for me something of an art. Or maybe a sport.  I had a little talent for it.  When I was a teenager, I almost exclusively wore antique (what we called it then) dresses.  Shirts and coats as well.  The only vintage pants I remember buying were those old high-waisted navy sailor pants.  Those were so friggin’ bitchin.   But they were made of wool and itchy.  I was all about the look though, and an itch I could tolerate for the look.

When I started driving, I would head out to a favorite store on Wilshire in that strange hood just before Santa Monica, near Barrington.  The Junk Store.  A semi-nasty person owned the place and when I tried to purchase my first item there — a black velvet 1940’s coat with big padded shoulders and white, sorry to say, elephant ivory buttons — I was told to go straight home and get a written note from my parents.  

A lot of parents were coming in complaining about and returning their kids’ purchases.  I thought, “WHAT?  My mother loves my style and everything I buy and wear.  I also make my own money and it’s not my parents’ business.”  But I went along with it, and I’m such a goody-goody that I brought back a legitimate note.  I could have gone outside and written my own.  I’m slow.  Everyone went to The Junk Store for the must-have ski sweater and the patchwork quilts.

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My husband Chad went to New York recently to drop our oldest daughter Lena off at college.   That same week, our 14-year old attended a cheer camp at UCLA for four days giving me a rare glimpse into the gaping maw of my Empty Nest Future and lemme tell ya, it was bleak.
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I won’t mince words. I walked around the house weeping. No kidding. I went into Lena’s room and smelled her pillow and the skeletal remains of her wardrobe. Each article of clothing summoned a sweet memory that only served to drive the knife in further, launching another torrent of bawling.

“Oh, those Gladiator’s from Urban Outfitters that I warned her not to wear at Coachella. But didn’t we have a kick-ass time?’ (Sob) “Oh, and look at this high collared floral shirt that she called “sexy secretary” when she wore it with that over-the knee pencil skir-hir-hir-hir-hirt, oh God, oh God, my ba-bee-he-he-he-he-heeeee.” I just stopped short of falling to my knees, pounding my chest and bellowing “WHY, WHY?” 

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meatball.jpgYou know how I made it through sophomore geometry? My mom's meatball sandwiches.

I dreaded geometry. Measures, angles, slopes, points. Coordinates? I thought they were clothes. It didn't help that my class was right before lunch, last lunch, actually, so I never knew if it was the geometry or the hypoglycemia that was causing my sweaty palms and headaches.

Nothing made me feel better than pulling my sandwich out of its paper bag. I'd take a whiff, know instantly it was a meatball sandwich, and give praise for Italian mothers. Then I'd carefully open the crinkly aluminum foil and discover three of my mom's homemade meatballs snuggled lovingly inside of a chewy Italian roll and doused with just the right amount of red gravy. It was as close to Nirvana as I would get, at least until I read Siddhartha.

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tracy_charlotte.jpgThe song you’ll hear after the jump is about driving my daughter Charlotte’s teenage carpool in 1998.  The absolute horror of it.  All I can remember about it was how much I hated it.  Then, today, I was reading through my journal from back then, and come across the following entry. I must have been writing things for Charlotte to read in later years.  She’s 26 now, so Charlotte, this is for you:

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