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Tub Time

22 Dec

Richard jumped into the tub just as the local classical radio station’s Winter Wonderland Sing-Along began. That’s perfect, I thought. It will help pass the ten minutes Richard has to stay in the tub to let the medicated shampoo work its magic.

The program opened with a professional musician running listeners through some vocal warm-ups. As I buzzed my lips and fa-la-la-ed my way up the scale, Richard cocked his head at my silliness. I broke into a round of Deck the Halls, along with the radio. Richard cocked his head the other way.

And I began to wonder, could Richard howl?

To a basset owner, there is no sound more beautiful than the baying of a hound. Of my five bassets, only Louie, my only male until Richard, could howl. I once amazed musical friends with a clip of him howling, in time, to the Hallelujah chorus. He was one-of-a-kind.

As the radio moved from Deck the Halls to Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming and O Holy Night. My French-Canadian mother, who was no singer, always called that last one, Minuit Chrétien. We’d run for cover when she sang it, but it might just be the perfect song to see if Richard could howl.

I sang along.

He looked at me.

I decided he needed more intervention and dropped the words.

I howled.

He looked at me in silence.

Then I heard a low rumble from his chest. Richard moaned, and before long we were howling together. In the bathroom. A Covid Christmas carol.

Wishing you all the happiest of HOWLIDAYS!

Stories are Light

15 Dec

“Do you guys do the Wednesday Advisory PowerPoint?” a colleague asked at a recent 6th grade Humanities teacher meeting.

An awkward silence followed.

The PowerPoints are created by our counselors. We meet with out homerooms daily for Advisory. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, we meet for 20 minutes and the presentations are interactive: announcements, games, study skills strategies, community building. On Wednesdays, we meet for 30 minutes. The PowerPoints feel like lectures. I feel like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

AS the awkward silence stretched, someone chimed in with a “Yes, but”, and we all felt we could confess.

The thing is, the info is good and helpful – teaching kids about mindfulness, growth mindset, and mental health issues. Sticking to the script is dull, though. So I chimed in with my confession.

“I do them, but I punctuate them with personal stories,” I confessed.

A former colleague used to call me Rise, after a character in one of her favorite TV shows, the Golden Girls. Rose had a story for everything, and, apparently, so did I. When she first started calling me this, I was embarrassed. Sometimes, I checked myself and held my story back. But, then I remembered the words of Gregory the Jailer in The Tale of Despereaux, “Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.”. I embraced my penchant for storytelling.

It is serving me well as I present the PowerPoints. By telling my stories, I hope I am bringing some light to my students.


17 Nov

The man was sitting on the low brick wall that curved into the park from the entrance. I saw him from a distance, my homeless person senses tingling. There are a number of tents and car-homes on permanent deployment near the park and the residents spend a lot of time in the park. For the most part, they are friendly, as this gentleman was.

Wearing a hat and face mask, my hearing is sometimes impaired. I clearly heard him say, “Do you have five,” but the ending was cut off. I assumed his last word was dollars, and I smiled with my eyes as Richard and I began to walk past silently.

“Just five minutes,” he continued. “I am doing sketches and you are interesting to me.” Well, flattery gets you many places, so I stopped.

“Well, I haven’t felt interesting for a while,” I laughed from a safe distance away.

“That’s a basset hound, right?” he continued. “We had a basset growing up.His name was McGee. We gave him that name thinking we were getting an Irish Setter, but we got hom. He was a good dog.”

“This is Richard,” I said as I watched him sketch, looking from Richard and I back to his sketchbook, his hand moving all the while. I gave him a little bit of Richard’s story and he shared some stories about McGee. He wasn’t wearing a mask, and, from the way he spoke, I got a sense that he’d had a hard life, or had some developmental issues. He wore no mask and I still had no clue as to whether he was an occupant of the encampment around the park. He was just a friendly guy.

“I’m done,” he announced suddenly, holding his notebook up for me to see. There were several sketches of Richard, from different angles. We wished each other a good day and Richard trotted forward – he’s a fast walker – as I heard the man ask someone else if they had five minutes. I heard the ending clearly that time.

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