Monday, November 30, 2009

Foreigner At Home

Today while at work, I had a very unexpected flashback. I honestly never thought I could ever feel this way again while standing within the borders of our fine country.
I was completely reminded of my first English class after arriving in Japan. I was to teach 5th graders their days of the week, months of the year, four seasons and holidays. All in one class period. (After introducing myself and providing 'cultural exchange.' Yes, it said 'cultural exchange' right there on the leson plan.)
I remember looking up at these uniformed wide-eyed students, muttering a few Japanese phrases I had tried to memorize the night before, ("Ganbatte kudasai! Do your best!") and then diving into my English lesson. The look on their faces--- that of utter bewilderment and blank incomprehension-- is the flashback I am referring to today.

Today, I was standing in front of 21 third graders on their first day back from Thanksgiving Vacation. For some reason, I thought it would be no problem at all to slip back into our routine of fact families and multiplication facts.... it had been only 6 days, after all.
What I saw staring back at me was enough to make me actually laugh out loud. My lips were moving. Words were coming out. There was body language and enthusiasm and even several octaves going on.... but there was not a TRACE of awareness on any of my 21 darlings' faces. In my mind's eye, I was back in the rice paddy, flapping my arms and singing and dancing my days of the week... in a foreign language. I was the white girl who kept on talking... in a WingDings equivalent.

I am offering up a prayer tonight. God, please give me the patience to hang in there. Fabio and friends are sure putting up a fight in this whole 'education' thing.
(On a related note, Fabio peed his pants today on purpose. Please make this an isolated incident.)
Thanks, God. Amen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How Long Does It Take To Turn Into Your Mother?

All families are full of quirks. I'm sure most people are confident that their own families are so uniquely strange that they are worthy of a sitcom (or a really bad reality show.) Mine is no exception.
My mother is a cross between June Cleaver and Rosie the Riveter. She cooks, she cleans, she makes everyone happy, and she is certainly not afraid of heavy lifting. Most of all though, my mother is an expert at the art of verbal communication. She could talk circles around your mother. I mean this in the most complimentary way....the woman talks. She genuinely loves to hear about (and talk about) how you're feeling, how your day was, what your evening plans are, what you ate for dinner... you get the point.

My father, on the other hand, is little more than mono-syllabic. He (quite rightly, in my opinion) believes that phone calls among family members are to be made when there is specific information to be exchanged. He wastes no time on talks of feelings or hypothetical plans or fluff. He's a loner-type; works alone, reads mystery novels in 24 hours flat... you get the point.

So now I've set the scene for the most comical, most typical events in recent history in my parents' household. My father had driven to Pennsylvania for a long weekend to visit my grandmother. The fact that he was driving instead of flying caused some...discussion... but eventually, away he went.
Fast-forward 72 hours. My father, in true my-father fashion, has decided to leave Pennsylvania at 4am for some logical reason, I'm sure. He is fumbling around my aunt's kitchen to find a light, but instead falls down and destroys his phone. (and his pill box and his elbow.) So there's a trail of blood, and broken plastic and a week of pills all over the scene. He calls my mom, tells her about the broken phone, and off he goes.

Fast-forward another sixteen hours. My family is all cozy at my mom's house and she keeps sending my niece to the window to see if Grandpa is coming. No Grandpa. Is he coming now? No Grandpa.

I get a call at 6am from my sister. Here is the conversation. (Abridged.)
"Emily, Dad still isn't home. Mom has been awake all night. Here are some possible scenarios mom and I have come up with. What if he got road rage and pissed off the wrong Bubba in West Virginia who shot him and put him in a hole somewhere? Or he passed out in a diabetic coma because he left a trail of pills and could possibly be going without? "
I roll my eyes loud enough for her to hear.
"Emily! Are you LISTENING to me?! Dad's not home yet!"
I can hear my mother in the background saying, "He would have Called if he was all right!" (False.)
So I bravely suggest that maybe....just maybe... even Probably... Dad is just fine. We knew he had a broken phone. She had advised him to stop and rest while driving. There was a bad storm which probably had traffic backed up.
This was the wrong thing to say. Extremely annoyed, my sister then explains...
"Mom has contacted the bank and all thirteen credit card providers who have traced his last location to a gas station in Virginia."
This genuinely impresses me.
"And she contacted the police department to file a missing persons report. There is no longer any reasonable explanation to what is taking him so long. Something terrible has happened."
This is where I laugh out loud, which was not appreciated. In their minds, (because my sister has a few years on me and is turning into my mother at an accelerated rate,) he has really been abducted by a crazy WestVirginian on the highway.
At this point, I am the daughter void of soul and sentiment.

My dad then casually, you might even say breezily, gives my mom a call on her cell from a pay phone.
"Hey, honey. I'm at the top of Florida. Had some bad weather. See you soon!"

The poor man still can't quite figure out where his mistake was initiated.... but he's still paying for it. He should have known.... the woman (honest to god) called 911 while (surprise!) talking to me on the cell phone because my reception was shoddy and it sounded like I was gasping for my last dying breath. No joke. The fire truck, the ambulance... for poor cell service.

They say we all turn into our mothers.... eventually. When you start off as I have done-- on the polar opposite end of the spectrum, does it buy us more time?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nine years of RAGE unleashed upon a cabinet.

I don't know if it's fate, karma, or the fact that I am lowest on the totem pole at work, but I seem to consistently acquire the strange students. I mean this in the most affectionate spirit-- weird is fine with me.
I've had students in the past who have made me laugh harder than any stand-up comedian I've paid to see. (One in particular whom I would honestly adopt TODAY-- he is the son I forgot to have nine years ago.) But this year, I have a student with pure raw emotion and it's hysterical. Let's call him Fabio. (I don't know.)
Fabio jumps up and down and giggles and screams, "I AM SO HAPPY! YIPPPEEEEE!" when he kicks during kickball. He does all this before he runs to first base. So, of course, the rest of the students yell, "What is the MATTER with you!? Run!" So...Fabio then drops down to the fetal position and kicks and pounds with his little fists and sobs and screams "I AM SO MAD! EVERYONE THINKS I'M A GOOF-HEAD!!!!" And this continues all day long.
Wednesday of last week is one that I will never forget. Fabio was frustrated during an assignment, so immediately everyone in the room was aware. I am a very patient person, so usually I just give him a minute and pretend that he's not hopping or rocking or yelling. Wednesday, however, Fabio got up, closed his eyes, (although somehow tears were still flying out,) and started to sprint around the room yelling "AHH!!!! I HATE THIS WORK!!!" And before I could get to him, as if in slow motion, Fabio, with his eyes shut tight, runs full speed ahead directly into my metal cabinet and bounces off like a cartoon. When I reached him, he was on his back and stunned.
Go outside and get it all out, I advise.
So that little stress-ball trudges out the classroom door, clenches his fists, throws his head back and belts out a scream of rage. And again. And again.
I poke my head out the door. "Feel better?" "Yep." "Ready to come in?" "Nope."

Although he is the root of many premature gray hairs, Fabio is shaping up to go down in the memorable student hall of fame. I think I'm a little jealous of him.... one of these days I might just clench my fists and throw my head back and in pure Garden-State style, get the rage out.....(When I'm a little higher on the totem pole.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

The first and possibly the last

It has come to my attention that November is National Novel Writing Month. (Lovingly referred to as NaNoWriMo). I know writing is something everyone thinks they personally do very well, like singing in the shower or taking artistic pictures of sandy feet. So it's not a great surprise to know that one of my life goals is to publish something. I'm not picky, here-- A political cartoon. A letter to the editor. The next Anna Karenina. Anything.
My SIX Word documents entitled My Book, My Book for Real This Time, This is It, etc., are exactly like those photos you might take on vacation of your feet covered in sand. You were so inspired at the time! The lighting was just right. But-- upon second examination, it's kitsch.
So, I figure instead of diving into NaNoWriMo-mode, I'd start small.

In an effort to avoid the bloggy cliché of deep thoughts and personal overshare, I plan to keep it conversational around here, should I ever write again. My classroom, friends, and family-- each with their own quirky goodness, keep me entertained daily. Perhaps I'll be back in the blogosphere to pass along the love. For now, however sad this may be, I truly appreciate the fact that the corner of my screen says PUBLISH POST. One life goal down, technically speaking.