Holidays and memories

As I mentioned before, I am not one for journaling and it is taking me a while to regroup following the holidays which brought on some nasty colds for three of the five of us. It was not pleasant but hopefully now out of our systems. I thoroughly enjoyed having our three kids home for a full two weeks. We so rarely have the chance to spend extended time –  all five of us together – these days and it is likely that it won’t happen again until August. Lively debates during good meals, laughs, fun games (Sequence, Blank Slate and Codenames – if you haven’t played them find them and have a blast!), shared time together are how we spent most of our time.

I find the holidays can be hard at the same time. I desperately miss my mother when the holidays – both Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around. With her birthday falling on November 28th, she is often on my mind. But I found this year sharing our thoughts and memories of her helped me. To hear my own children talk about what they appreciated about their relationships with her; her kindness, her funny sense of humor, her passions for the outdoors, fishing, games, letter writing, etc… warms my heart and reminds me that we are all so fortunate to have shared our time with her.

My mom – Weezie to her friends and family, Sweetie to her grandchildren – was an avid environmentalist even in the 1970’s. I have clear memories of loading up the back of her Ford station wagon with our bundled newspapers, boxes of clear glass, green and brown glass, and cans to drive over to the Princeton Shopping Center where the town recycling center was. As a lover and protector of nature, the environment, water supply, etc… Mom was a champion of recycling and what it would mean if everyone did it. We were admonished if we threw something out into the trash that belonged in the recycling or the compost. She would be appalled today if she saw what was happening to our environment and she would call her representatives and senators, or write them a letter in her beautiful hand writing. She would do her homework, have facts to back up her points and drive home her message succinctly. She believed in her father’s mantra of, “Stand up, speak up and shut up.” Never one to hesitate to speak her mind, Mom would champion what she held dear and our planet and its resources were at the top of that list – other than her family, of course.

My youngest daughter carries many of these traits and it is a blessing. While she was twelve when Mom died, she shares Mom’s spark when it comes to championing the things that will make our world a better place. She was home for the past month, waiting to head to Italy for her spring semester abroad. During this time, she encouraged and then assisted TJ and me in our efforts to clean up and out many rooms in our house. While there were many trips to the dump, we went as often to the clothing donation boxes and recycling station at the dump. She also spent time picking out the clothes that could be consigned. For Christmas she gave me a new composting bucket, beeswax paper to cover leftovers instead of foil or plastic wrap, and mesh bags to use at the grocery store for produce. She is adamant about never using plastic cups or straws, always bringing her own cup or mug when purchasing coffee or tea. These are all things that Mom would have appreciated. I find these moments, when I cherish the memories of Mom and her lessons learned by her grandchildren, to be the greatest gifts I could have ever hoped to receive.

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And so the sabbatical begins…

This was a very strange day for me. Why, you might wonder? For thirty-two years I have known when school vacations end and it’s time to go back to work; today for faculty meetings and tomorrow classes resume. It is on every calendar I own, it is part of my internal clock, it is what I do. When my alarm didn’t go off at 6:00am and I slept until 7:50, I panicked. A feeling of dread about being late – I hate being late. My mantra is – if you are on time, you are late. All of my former field hockey and tennis players can tell you this. “Yes, she will leave you behind if you are late for the bus.” With the exceptions of three maternity leaves, (25, 23, and 20 years ago), the school year has been a part of my internal clock.

And so, my sabbatical begins. What am I looking forward to – the one thing all prep school teachers talk about – time. Time to do the things that the school year doesn’t often provide us with – spending time with family that lives far away, time to travel at leisure, time to take care of projects at home that have gone undone for too long, time to breathe, read, relax and dive into exciting adventures.

For me this began the weekend before Thanksgiving with a quick trip to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 75th birthday. Time with family that we don’t see often enough, time to celebrate an amazing woman who has supported our family in ways that are simply selfless, and time to remind ourselves of the beauty of my husband’s hometown, Niagara Falls, Ontario. It was wonderful. I found myself contemplating just what a gift this time is that I have and am so grateful for it.

This past weekend I had the chance to spend with three of my very best college girlfriends. We keep in touch but had not spent time together since three summers ago when we celebrated our 50th birthdays in Boston; seeing an incredible Billy Joel concert at Fenway. Our lives have taken paths that allow us to share, support and engage in conversation, laughter and sometimes tears. But it always circles back to laughter and fun. The sharing of memories of life on the Hill at Hamilton is always a favorite and there was a great deal of that to be sure. I find myself thinking about just how impactful these three women were in my college experience and how lucky I am that they are still in my life.

As I plan for the next few months, I consider how fortunate I am to have the support of my administration and colleagues at Tabor to afford me this time. One thing is for sure, I will make the most of it and return to school re-energized and ready to dive in.