That’s me in the corner.
“Losing My Religion,” R.E.M.
The Christmas season has always been the lowest point of the year for me. It has taken years and years to figure out all the elements, and coming to understand hasn’t really changed anything, except for recognizing why, unlike the majority of people being festive, I suffer the gray weeks around Christmas and New Year’s, longing for the other side.
The contracting of daylight toward the Winter Solstice, the rise of holiday gatherings, the interruption of the glorious and predictable pattern of the work schedule, and the pervasive sense of being always the stranger in the room—all this conspires against my proclivities toward introversion, anxiety, and the solitary demands of books and writing.
And this holiday season of 2014 has inevitably tumbled onto me like a load of bricks, triggered by worrying (my daughter sick one night, the mother of my five-month-old granddaughter, thus double worry) and then the stiff neck spawned like a Medieval belief.
However, as I mentioned above, my world is not the same as any other year before because my daughter has gifted me and the world a child, my granddaughter.
My daughter has taught me a great deal about myself—often those things that I would have preferred not to learn—and then after sitting in the delivery room watching her give birth followed by the past five months of her being a mother, wife, and daughter, she has again left me in awe (something she has done often before as baby, child, teen).
Because of me (and all her family, of course) and often in spite of me , she is the adult all parents both imagine and cannot imagine their child becoming.
Middle-age, an adult daughter, a grandchild, and over thirty years of teaching—these are the sorts of things that we must not ignore; the sorts of lessons that call out to us and offer us every single day yet another chance to do this only life right.
And so in the midst of my holiday blues, against the contortions of anxiety and the overwhelming urge to seek anywhere except here (when here includes people), and in defiance of my inherent pessimism, my granddaughter without the capacity for language yet speaks to me, provokes me, reminds me.
While I admit to flaws and significant, too frequent disappointment in my own Self, I also truly embrace the thing that grounds me most: each child, each student is a sacred trust.
Those anchors my daughter and granddaughter are joined in my life by that wonderful and demanding renewal known to teachers as students.
Once our student, always our student, and until that last class I mostly try not to think about, these students will be followed by new students—the bittersweet end of one semester or course replaced by the possibilities of that next semester, that next course, that room of students ours.
My granddaughter now helps me hold onto why I teach, why I live: every day, every moment, and every student, a new opportunity to be the person I want to be, to be a better person, one who can always look her in the eyes.
I think people call that hope.