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Saturday
Jun122010

The List of Lasts

So Adria, we have come full circle. Another school year is over. And for me, a major part of my life is coming to a close-five more teaching days and twelve more days in all. 

I am making a LIST of LASTS:

last full week of teaching 

last test for Othello

last Department Head’s Meeting (with a cake and a segment called Honouring Our Colleague (guess who?)

last set of exams  

I’ll be eager to add:

last time I get up at five 

last time I walk in the dark along ‘no man’s land’(the stretch on Bloor between Yonge and Jarvis)  

last time I experience the pitiless wind tunnel at the Sherbourne (known at times as Hellbourne) subway station.  

One of the Sad Lasts though, will be not sharing time with The Ladies of the Morning: my neighbour, the principal, that I get a ride with and with whom I’ve shared tales of school as well as personal stories, the Polish lady who runs the café where I pick up my invigorating coffee and toast, the Jamaican lady who waits for the bus on the corner of Isabella and exchanges one or two comments with me about the weather, and my fun-loving early morning colleagues who jockey to be first in line at the photocopier. 

That was a lovely description of the final concert at St. Hildegarde’s. I wish I had been there. The atmosphere you convey is that of private and ivy-league schools and I visualized the magnificent cathedrals of Oxford and Gloucester and the Choir schools and all that they entail. You are lucky and the school is very lucky to have you.

And then there is the Franklin World. We will be having our ceremony on Busy Bathurst, across from Honest Ed’s, at St. Pete’s (as one student called it). The on-going theme discussed at the countless graduation meetings is CONTROL: controlling the parents (keep them away from the altar with their cameras), controlling the students (keep them in the procession line, then in their seats, and off their cells phones), controlling the teachers (everyone at their posts and no one standing around doing nothing).  But, on the bright side, we do have a choir this year. One of the teachers has been working with a few girls for the past month. Even with modest numbers and lack of serious training, when the voices waft into the corridors, we are all momentarily transported to a better place. 

I am only now beginning to realize the scope of converging momentous events in my life: Retirement, J’s Wedding and a New Job  the other side of the world. 

In keeping with the last part, Ann Michaels’ book, The Winter Vault, enticed me with The Nile, Date Palms and Dessert, Nubia, The Sacred Places of Egypt, and the building of the Aswan Dam. It made me realize how little I know about the Middle East, so I purchased some summer reading to go along with my World Atlas: A History of the Middle East, A History of the Arab Peoples, House of Tears (Westerners’ Adventures in Islamic Lands). This should keep me busy for a while. I guess we’ll never be an ancient civilization. Witnessing, once again, the catastrophic ineptitude, greed and irreparable damage, this time in the US Gulf, might be proof enough. 

 To return to, The Winter Vault, which I loved - for a while, but like so many other novels, I lost interest in the middle. A story that begins with such startling love set against a world of unsurpassed beauty and mystery to suddenly fall into the realm of ordinary life when the protagonist loses a child and, and thus, all is lost, did not feel credible for me. Then, to subject the reader to an insignificant (I think) love affair, diminished the story. I did not buy it at all. I was a selfish, willing reader of the non-fiction information for the first half, but not so willing a reader for the fiction in the second half. I might as well add, that I experienced similar disappointment with Gardam’s The Queen of the Tambourines. The first part captivated me, but as the length of the stories and dialogue in the letters became less plausible, I stopped reading. Such antithesis is almost blasphemous, after all the praise we’ve heaped upon her.

After my depictions of Catholic Schools and of the nuns in the memoir pieces I sent you, I thought back to my high school education. I reviewed a mental list of my best friends and acquaintances and surprisingly, we have all been taught/trained with/by nuns at some point. And we all seem to have similar traits: strong work ethic, high standards, a set of values and morals to live by. I’m won’t mention any negative traits! So, I’m wondering if we turned out this way because of the nuns or in spite of them. To be fair, I will admit that it must be a combination of both. 

The next few weeks at school are filled with lunches and secret plans. I found this note in the staffroom- Pot luck on Tuesday for Sarah. Please keep it a surprise. Sweet colleagues. 

I look forward to seeing you. It has been such a long time since we’ve met. At least it seems that way to me.  Our chatting and laughing will put things right again. 

I value our friendship, Adria. Thank You, 

Sarah 

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