Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Flotsam and jetsam--a paperweight

Soon enough in the moving process, what develops are three piles--trash, the untouchables, and maybes.  Early on, the "maybe" pile grows exponentially until finally its sheer mass becomes unwieldy and the garbage bags start finally to fill.  

What follows is a callous phase, when deliberations mostly cease and flotsam and jetsom gets tossed wholesale.  Still, the "maybes" don't disappear because it's always easier to postpone decision-making.  We come from the factory--or so it seems to me--with a spacious capacity for procrastination.

By the end, it's not nostalgia that creates criteria for the final cut, it's sheer practicality.  Look!--what lousy difference does it make to pack stuff that takes up, like, zero space, right?  Soon enough, there are boxes full of minutia, like this paperweight I've had since fall, 1973, a paperweight that never held down paper even though I've corrected thousands of pages in forty years of teaching.  It's never been useful but always been around.  

I remember receiving a letter sometime that summer, a simple letter bearing news I thought immensely special because it announced that I was to be counted among a very special few--the Outstanding Secondary Educators of America of 1973.  I was thrilled and simply assumed it was my boss, the high school principal, who'd nominated me.  

I would receive a certificate, that letter said, and could buy a richly bound book in which my name and attributes would appear.  If I'd like, I could also buy a paper weight, a memento.  What teacher couldn't use a paperweight?

I was proud. I'd been teaching two years after all, and already I'd achieved some sort of national renown. Barely out of college, I was among the elite.  I bought the book and the paperweight.


I wasn't a high school teacher when the goodies arrived, and I'd recently been married, and I was, from the moment that book was in my hand, terminally shame-faced.  It was hard cover, as adveritised, but printed on paper so cheap wood chunks still swam on the surface, mustardy pages that listed thousands of names in a print face I couldn't have named back then but today would call dot matrix.  Very impressive.  Sure, my name was there, but your chances of stumbling across it was no greater than finding some some great aunt in a Chicago cemetery.  Besides, who on earth would buy the stupid book, other than those named within its richly bound pages?

Me and a thousand others.  Calvinist that I was, I wasn't smart enough to remember that what comes before a fall is the honcho of the seven deadlies, pride.  

The book I tossed years ago.  All that's left is this paperweight that stands here, indolent as heck, still not doing its work, just one of just three or four little old icons, what's left of the "maybe" pile, awaiting a final decision.

This little paperweight is all about achievement, but the hoopla is meaningless.  Here it stands, a little chunk of moral marble that won't take up much space but will, wherever I go, always tell me a story.

That's why it's comin' with.  Once upon a time I may well have been among the Outstanding Secondary Teachers of America, but forty years later I'm still a heckuva slow learner.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Blackhawk School District October - 1971. [I think this was about the time-during basketball season.]

We shared some great times.

Didn't you learn the definition of the word "stanchon" [I am not sure how to spell it myself but it was a cute 'dity' at the time.] when a farm kid asked you for it's correct spelling?

HH Monroe [your characterization of the town you lived in] is where we shared a meal of Piggly Wiggly chicken in your house trailer using a shared fork. [since only one was available] We both learned table manners later on after we got married.

Congratulations on your 40th. Our 40th is coming in August, 2012.

JT (Romey)

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