Photo: Two little boys, dancing out the last few minutes of what has been an extraordinary summer.
During the beginning of this summer, I said to my mother, “I don’t even know what to pray for right now. There is just too much to ask for. Too much going on.”
and now, I can honestly say I don’t know how to stop saying thank you.
I did the cha cha slide with Ursa Minor in a gymnasium full of kids today. I watched him and his brother dance, carelessly, happily… gleefully… joyfully… for 40 minutes this afternoon after what has been an extraordinary 3 weeks at a posh, incredible, ridiculous summer camp that I can’t even believe I was able to get my boys into. It makes me want to cry, just writing these words… because, wow… I don’t even know how to begin, where to begin, with my gratitude.
It’s been a high-emotion day all around. It started with a lot of excitement: last day of camp! Yay! But as the day went on and we all got into our feelings, a mood settled onto the entirety of the camp. Last day of camp. Yeah. Summer is ending. We’re all saying goodbye.
By the time we got to the end and a fairly busy pick-up, there were tears all around. The kiddos were crying, we were crying, parents were crying. There were pictures to sign and friends to hug and colleagues to shake hands with. And remember, I came in at the tail-end of it all… but I’m sitting here with all the feels. It’s hard to say goodbye, even when it hasn’t been that long.
I’m sore head to toe, but my heart is full and my head is full of memories. In the last three weeks, my two boys have made friends with new kids, rekindled old friendships with friends from preschool, they’ve cooked, created stuff with clay, shot arrows, grown confident in the water, ridden in canoes, sang and danced, learned how to play thumb war… I didn’t understand the value of camp until now. I’m blown away.
I’m changed, too, having survived three weeks of teaching new things to a completely new audience. I taught 3 year-olds, I taught 12 year-olds, I taught my own sons in a classroom setting (Lordy!), I spent time with highschoolers and college students and adult educators. I even spent time with an aspiring yogi, enjoying his positive vibe and growing wisdom, finding an unlikely friend in a random place. I met another interracial couple in the area who have a daughter just a little older than Major. The boys befriended a biracial boy who lives in our town but goes to a different school (I gave his dad my information). I should mention that I befriended a long-time Dungeon Master and this happened:
I’m pretty sure that becoming a Dungeon Master is my own personal nerdy inevitability. There were many, many roads that led to this. My husband is thrilled. We already have 2 people to play with. Studying up and figuring this all out starts tomorrow. All because I invited the Role Playing camp to come up and visit my Writing Camp one afternoon! Lordy. Camp is a strange and wonderful place.
It’s been 7 weeks of a transformative summer. There are two weeks left. It’s time, finally, to pivot toward another school year. Starting Monday, we’re back to a routine of practicing guitar, we’re introducing the boys to some regular chores and responsibilities, and I am going to begin the processes of whipping this house back into shape (It’s really, really a disaster). There will be playdates, of course, and maybe even a day-trip or two before it’s all over… but today was the last big shabang. I think the boys are almost relieved that there are no big plans for next week.
But first, I have to say goodbye to my friend Ray tomorrow.
Ray passed away last Sunday morning. I’m not sure about you, Dear Reader, but I have encountered people in this life who I simply wish could be immortal. The true, the good, the kind, the wise… if we’re lucky, there are people in this life who we will meet and they will change how we see the world and how we interact with it. I was a haughty know-it-all when I got out of graduate school and got my first “real” job at a charter school in Boston. Ray had the title of “office administrator” officially, but he was everything to everyone on our little hallway. I won’t write a eulogy here, but I’ll suffice it to say that Ray was a paragon of selfless service, providing guidance to students, kindness to parents, wisdom to teachers, and elegant leadership-by-example for the entirety of our school community (amid a school-culture in sore need of more such examples). He was patient with me, always with a bright smile and the best sense of humor. He and I were always first or second in the building, each of us turning on the lights and warming up the copiers… I can hear his laugh. I can see him walking past my door. I can see his smile as he’d yell at me for a syllabus or the homework assignment for the evening. It is the worst kind of cruelty to lose him to cancer at the young age of 50, a brand new grandfather.
Life is short, Dear Reader. We do not have long to gladden the hearts of those who walk the way of us. Be swift to love. Make haste to be kind. Choose, time and again, to lead by example, to plant the seeds of good acts that will grow into a better world. Ray did these things. He will be missed in a way that I’m not equipped to articulate. Indeed, there may not be words that can fully encapsulate how much he meant to so many.
My Dear Reader, I tell you every Friday that you are loved and what you do matters. I do this because it’s true. You are loved. What you do matters. Even if you don’t always know it or feel it or hear it from others, I’m a person on the internet telling you this truth. You are loved. What you do matters. There are people who see you, who notice what you give to the world and who benefit from your simply being yourself and giving your gifts to the world. By choosing to be yourself, to be kind to others, to serve your community, to lead by gentle example, to give when you think you’ve got nothing left, to stand up and speak out, to step out in front of others even when it’s the scariest thing you can possibly do… when you are yourself, bravely, boldly, honestly… you do so much for the people who are around you. You are a bright light in a dark world, Dear Reader. I know this to be true because I witnessed Ray do all of these things. 4 years I got to witness with my own eyes, though he was a legend long before I met him and long after I left. For years to come, I’ll get to witness the reverberating goodness, the ripples in space and time as our students, his students, grow and succeed and establish themselves. They are the seeds that were nourished by the brightness of his light and they will be his lasting legacy.
And because of those seeds, nourished by his bright light, he achieves as close to immortality as any of us can hope for.
You too, Dear Reader, plant seeds every day and nourish them with your bright light. Do not doubt this. I know it to be true.
So shine on, Dear Reader. Plant your seeds, shine your light, grow your legacy. Be a Ray of Sunshine for the people in your life today, tomorrow and always. This is my wish for you on this Friday night in deep summer.
I’m back to some sort of regular routine starting on Monday. Thank you for your patience with me this summer, Dear Reader! You’ve been so supportive and I’m beyond grateful!