First Day 2014

Today is the first day of school. I usually repost this blog with the advice my wonderful principal, Charlotte Lurchenmuller gave me years ago. I will still share it, but this year I have a lot of other thoughts on my mind.

I want to approach the year with optimism, so I'm thinking of my mom and even though this is the first time I won't share my first day of school with her, I want to recall all of the first days she made special while I was growing up.

There is an election today, to fill the vacated board seat of Marguerite LaMotte, a true advocate for students and teachers who passed late last year. I will ignore the ugly campaign of the reform movement's candidate and urge all those District 1 residents to cast ballots for Dr. George McKenna.

My school has become a charter, an LAUSD affiliated charter so not an evil corporate charter, but still.... and Emerson is in the midst of a huge construction project. This is bringing Supt. Deasy and Board Member Zimmer and the press to our campus this morning. I will ignore that dozens of workers have been on campus to make it presentable, not for our students, but for the superintendent. I will focus on my students and make it about their first day.

I will acknowledge that an unarmed eighteen-year-old Mike Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, MO a week before he should have started college. Protesters of such violence have been subject to rubber bullets and tear gas from the same police they protest. This is the reality my students face. They are subject to the discrimination of poverty and racism everyday, but today I will welcome them and hope to provide them with the skills and knowledge to fight such injustice.

I will mourn the loss of Robin Williams whose "Nanu nanu" were two of my brother's first words when he came to us from Korea. I will remember that I do not know the battles those around me face. I will try to understand everyone's potential struggle and greet them with kindness.

I'm thinking of all of my students, current and former, and I'm thinking of the teachers heading out there this morning. Have a great first day of school.


Summer Stock

Kiara contemplates summer and fall. 
Summer begins that first week of June with a farewell.

The school year comes to an abrupt end when a phone call from my sister indicates things are not going well. I need to get home. I leave my classroom a mess. There is no last day of school, no yearbook signings, no hugs from students. There is no gleeful send-off into summer.

There are ten days in Portland. Every day is trips to the hospital, hours in a critical care unit watching machines that track each heartbeat, each breath.

There are breakfasts with Dad, lunches with my brothers and sister. There are lonely trips for coffee or ice cream with the hipsters of Portland.

There is a positive pregnancy test that feels like some sort of trick life is playing on my forty-year-old body.

Things with Mom get worse, or they just don't get better. We must think about what Mom would want. Then we must advocate for her. There are decisions to make, and every conversation is a challenge. There is prayer and song, tears and silence.

We finally let go, and our family of six is brought to five.

On Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, we hold Mom's Memorial. There is family and friends, tears and laughter. There are long moments when grief and loss overwhelm. There are
stretches of nothing.

I come home to LA and Mom is there. She is with me when I wake up Kiara in the morning. She is with me every time I sit down to the page. She is with me at the beach and in the car. She is here.

There is rain in LA this summer, but mostly beautiful days of sunshine.

The pregnancy that once felt like a trick has been confirmed and the doctor calls it a miracle. David and I watch this new life squirm on a grainy, black-and-white screen with awe.

I head back to work even though summer still shines strong and will for another couple of months. I will continue to soak in the sun, and breath in the beach air. I will cling to the memory of easy summer days.

I will hold onto summer until fall makes me forget.