I want to compose a poem: an ode to the unexpected, a tribute to the unscripted. To the small surprises and frustrations that used to spell “normal” just last year.
I want to immortalize the thick dew on my window on a mid-November morning in 2019. I want a whole stanza dedicated to the huge spider on the rearview mirror who appeared as I reached cruising speed on the freeway.
I’ll throw in some choice phrases about the huge puddle that forms on the 405/710 interchange after a rain. It’ll take at least a few lines to capture the thrill of inexplicable slowdowns, the frantic recalculations, the counting of minutes as I consider alternate routes to work.
The way the morning sun gilds the open field of vegetation near my exit will need a mention, although I don’t know how I’ll possibly capture it in words.
In grieving the loss of normalcy since March, I’m at the acceptance stage most of the time. I’m settled into my new routine, fairly comfortable with the big changes that teaching during a pandemic has brought. So imagine my surprise when, over the past few days, I’ve found myself getting emotional over the tiny losses that I wouldn’t have noticed on most days.
It’s the heavy feel of my school keys on the lanyard around my neck that I miss. The blast of hot air when I open my classroom in the morning, a sweet reminder that my colleagues on the custodial crew were working early to make the learning environment comfortable. The expectant quiet of the campus before the bell sends students scattering.
I want to transport myself back to last school year and appreciate the sharp smell of fertilizer on the football field, or the tell-tale scent of the skunk family that lives under my neighbor’s bungalow. There’s something indescribably lovely about the huge balloon bouquets that teenagers exchange on their birthdays, even when — especially when — the balloons don’t fit easily through a classroom door and hover awkwardly in the corner throughout the period.
An ode to the unexpected. The squirrel on the edge of a trash can. The thick line of ants outside my door. The enthusiastic greeting from a student I’m pretty sure I don’t know. The treats a student has brought from home to share. The kids who accidentally wore the same outfit and are tired of hearing about it by the time they get to my class.
This week marks eight months since LBUSD shut down, and I’m feeling the small losses profoundly. When — if — we return to campus in January, it’s entirely possible that the first time a student asks to borrow a pencil, I may collapse into tears.