July 28, 2019
As the summer winds down, my teacher friends are gearing up for another school year. Over the next few weeks, I'll be rerunning some of my favorite posts about teachers as a reminder of how much educators do to make the world a better place. Let's all thank a teacher today; and let's vote for education reform that honors the good work that our teachers do and respects the value of every single student.
Written June 2003 in honor of Mrs. Lois Jones' retirement from kindergarten teaching.
In the spring of 1999 my husband and I had a five-year old, a three-year old, and a one year old. After reviewing every possible option from Home School to Charter School and beyond, we chose Oakley Elementary School for our children. In just a few months, our oldest was going to Kindergarten. Now, I'm quite certain it would have been easier to peel away my skin and send it off with a backpack than to do what I had to do. I had so many questions, so many concerns. I read everything I could find on preparing a child for Kindergarten. But in the end, having chased every possible thought around my brain and back again, I decided to give up, and give in. “Lord,” I prayed. “I have done the best I can to find some peace in this thing and I'm just not finding it. So you just fix it. Find the teacher for my child. I give up.”
“Dear Parent: Your child will be in Mrs. Jones class. School starts Tuesday, August 10, 1999. . .” The letter came after I'd prayed for weeks for the perfect teacher for my child. Now I know my prayers were answered in Lois Jones.
Two years later, I walked my son, Baker, to her classroom and just last fall, my youngest daughter, Margaret, was assigned to Mrs. Jones class.
She has given my three children a wonderful beginning to their education. I am infinitely grateful for that. But, in truth, that’s not what I appreciate the most about Mrs. Lois Jones. What I want to thank her for today, is not for what she did for my children academically, but for what she did for their hearts.
See, I left my Heart with her. And she gave her heart back to them. She has taught them, sure. But she has loved them. And know this: Mrs. Jones does not play favorites. She loves them ALL! I've witnessed her teaching for the past five years. She’s been here influencing children for much longer than that. And each one of my children, and every other child she has taught, has a little bit of Lois Jones' heart tucked inside their own.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
And now she is 21. A good time to rerun this piece about our Joy Bringer.
Margaret, my youngest child (born earlier this week), turned 18 today (2/13/16) In honor of her birthday, I thought I’d share 18 reasons why we Lawrimores call her our Joy Bringer.
We named our third child Margaret because, though she was beloved, she was not exactly planned. “Margaret” means “pearl.” Some of her earliest conversations included, “My name is Mawgwet, cuz I a tweasure of gwaaaaate pwice!” She is indeed. She is our Joy Bringer.
Margaret, our animal whisperer (the one of our three who knows the daily schedule of Animal Planet™ far too well), has loved animals since she began identifying them in her picture books. So, considering her gift for persuasion, along with her blond curls and blue eyes, it’s to our credit that Jay and I held out until her 11th birthday to get her a pet of her own.
Giggles the guinea pig joined our family five weeks ago. And five weeks ago, our Margaret fell in love.
She cooed to Giggles snuggling under her chin, “You are just the cutest; yes you are.” Giggles talked back in guinea pigese, proving she had been aptly named. Margaret giggled back. “I love you, Giggles!”
Yesterday morning, Margaret mentioned to me that Giggles was acting unusual. But it was Jay who became concerned around 3:00 when he found her unwilling to eat and lethargic. We realized that her cage was spotless—meaning that she had not pottied in 24 hours (not a good thing for a rodent who usually potties every 15 minutes or so. . .). She was making a bizarre squeaking sound, didn’t want to be held, and was struggling to breathe.
Margaret and I rushed her to the vet, Margaret—holding the box that held her beloved and covering her ears so she wouldn’t hear the sound that told us something was terribly wrong. At the office, the pet nurse tried to get her temperature but needed some help so she stepped out of the room to call for help. While we were alone in the room, Giggles revived a bit and Margaret took her. “That’s my girl, you’re going to be okay, aren’t you?”
At that moment, Giggles fell over limp. I took Giggles immediately and dashed to call in the vet. Margaret ran out of the room. The vet—an amazing woman—began working to save our little guinea. After about 15 mins of trying, the doc told me she was gone. Then, it was my job to tell Margaret.
Margaret was looking at books right outside the office (it’s located in PetSmart™). I touched her shoulder. She turned to look at me. Walking away from me as fast as she could, she said, “No, no, no, no, no. . .” I caught her. She crumpled in my arms. “No, no, no, no.”
On the way home, she was inconsolable, “I’ll never get another guinea pig. I don’t want anything that’s going to die.” She wept, nearly hyperventilating from sobbing. “I should have known, Mommy, I should have known.”
“You can’t know everything, baby.”
Tears still streamed down her cheeks as she hiccupped out her words. “But she was my daughter. I should have known.”
“It surely feels that way, doesn’t it?" I longed to help her feel better but knew I couldn't. I said, instead, what she already knew, "Nothing in the world hurts as bad as losing someone you love. Nothing.”
“I’m never getting another guinea pig.”
“You don’t have to decide that now.”
“Can we read when we get home?” (Margaret and I still read together like we did when she was a preschooler. It’s an indulgence we both enjoy.)
“We can do whatever you want.”
“Then can we read on your bed?”
We came home, cuddled up with her lovies and our book. Margaret’s sobbed on. “Just read, Mommy, I need to get my mind off it.” I read.
Meanwhile, Jay had been out running errands—he left to go when we left for the vet. I had called him to tell him the sad news, but he had not gotten back by the time we arrived. About a chapter into our book, Jay came home.
“Hey Noodle-bug,” he said softly, using our pet name for her.
She turned her sad, weepy face to him. He held his cupped hands out to her. Instantly she scrambled up from the bed, brightening back into our Margaret. From the palms of her Daddy’s hands popped a furry little face. She reached for her new guinea, smiling, cuddling it to her. “Her name is Lemon Square,” she told us, shrugging the tears from her cheeks, “And I’m going to take such good care of her.”
A little girl, transformed from heartbroken to hope-filled, because a Daddy who loved her more than she can understand gave her the gift of new life: That’s grace. That’s love. That’s Good News.
Over the years, my youngest daughter has inspired a number of blog posts. Today, her graduation day, I thought I'd unearth some of my favorites. Here's to the class of 2016; here's to our joy-bringer; here's to Margaret Aileen!
Because she was a big-girl, she didn't need Mommy to walk her into the classroom. She preferred, instead, to ride in Daddy's car with her older brother and sister. Moments after they pulled away, I wrote this piece about the angst of parenting: letting go. I thought a re-run was appropriate on this her 17th birthday.
The last few weeks, everything has been about Margaret: the new clothes, the new shoes, the perfect lunchbox and backpack. I’ve smiled and encouraged. I’ve been positive and reassuring. Yep, kindergarten is a good thing and I am truly excited for Margaret.
So today is the day. She has climbed into the back seat with her two older siblings, thrilled to be riding to school with Daddy and the big kids.
“No more pictures Mommy! I’m ready to go!”
And she is ready.
“Have a great day!” I shout as I wave goodbye to the car that has already started down the road.
My voice breaks and I turn to go inside. I move in slow motion, distracted by a physical pain I can’t place. I stop, trying to find the source of the sting. Awareness dawns. It’s this moment. It’s this moment when white knuckles unclench and heart strings snap. Dull and pulsing, sharp and piercing: it’s surreal. I make my way inside to the familiar.
The moments before this one have been wonderful. I loved having babies. I loved the late night feedings. I loved the terrible twos. (I called them the terrific twos.) I loved preschool. I loved the cute things my children said in their innocence, like Margaret insisting she would “stay her shoes on.” I loved that. I loved the way my little ones laughed—at anything. I loved the spontaneous hugs. I loved the dependence.
In the infant days, people often said with a note of annoyance, “Margaret is such a Mommy’s girl. She won’t go to anyone else.” I’d smile and say, contentedly, “Yeah. . .I know. . .” I loved that. The preschool years have been delightful. I don’t want them to end.
Before today, I tried to think of a way to slow things down. I could delay her going to kindergarten a year. I could homeschool. But, in the end, I realized that no matter what I did, these years would still be over; she would still be five years old; she would still be growing up.
So here I am alone, in a quiet, empty house, trying to put words to this ache. But maybe I can’t. Perhaps when the heart takes over the brain, the feeling just won’t be expressed. “This,” the heart says, “this you must feel. You cannot write it or say it, touch it or mold it. You must be here, inside this broken place to understand it.”
Oh puh-lease. Already I challenge myself. Aren’t you over-sentimentalizing again? Maybe. I don’t know. I just know that my words, always so faithful to me, fail me now. And I know that my heart hurts so much that surely it must be broken in there.
I wonder how the healing will take place. Will the skin of one area of my life bridge the gap and connect with the skin of another? And will this healing leave some evidence of itself? I hope so. I want something from this rich, precious time of my life to remain visible. I want a scar.
So I gather photos and artwork, mementoes that once I had little ones. These who are now so independent, were once not so much so. I did the right thing! I remind myself. They are independent; they are confident. Still, I want my heart to show that it isn’t easy to do the right thing. I want the scar.
Me (getting tissue to get a stink bug off the wall): "I hate these stupid things!"
Margaret, alarmed: "Don't kill it!"
Me (thinking she was trying to avoid the post-mortem stench): "I'm going to flush it."
Margaret, further alarmed but now also aghast: "That will still KILL it."
Me (also now aghast): "Then you get rid of it.
Margaret to stink bug, with paper in hand, holding it up to the wall as a bridge: "Come here, that's right, there you go!" [Goes outside to free the thing and returns, grinning triumphant.]
(So that's one way to solve the problem. But if you don't have a stink bug pro-lifer in your home, consider this suggestion from Virginia Tech.)
July 13, 2013
There are few things I find as satisfying as sitting outside a coffee shop writing. The only thing that makes it better? Having company.
Today, my daughter Margaret and I are at Starbucks™ in Asheville. She is doing summer homework and I am doing a bit of writing. We have a lot to do. Luckily, we have some help.
Published May 27, 2013
“Hang on a second, Margaret, I just need to fill this ice tray. In fact, why don't you watch how I do this?” I turned on the tap, held the tray under the running water, turned the water back off, and returned the tray to the freezer.
“Done. And in a few hours, that will become ice!” (My youngest daughter should have known this by now—she's 15 after all.)
Before you ask, let me explain. We don't have an ice maker. Our house is older and though we've tried a couple of times, we just can't get an icemaker to function properly. Years ago, we gave up and reverted to good, old-fashioned, ice trays.
Now, I love ice in my drinks. I've said many times, “If you get me a cup of ice, you'll be my favorite child!” This rule applies to my own children, nieces and nephews, kids at church, and, okay, perfect strangers. I like my ice. And so does Margaret. Only Margaret is in the habit of returning empty or nearly empty trays to the freezer without refilling them. This, I'll admit, is a tiny little problem in the realm of parenting. But still.
Margaret watched my ice-tray-refilling lesson with bored disinterest. “Okay,” she said, shrugging her shoulders, her eyes already starting to giggle, “But I've found that if you just put the trays back empty, they eventually refill themselves.”
"But Mommy!" Margaret said, convicted, "You just don't realize how many pairs of shoes I don't have!"
The message started with "Everyone is okay;" so naturally, I knew immediately that something was wrong. Indeed, today, Margaret's first day of high school, someone called in a bomb threat to the school. I heard the news via the call alert system.
I wasn't worried, just annoyed. Wasted time and misplaced anxiety: not exactly my favorite things. I thought about my two high schoolers--particularly Margaret who I still refer to as "My Little Girl"--sitting in the gym with 1200 other students, hot, confused, uninformed. As I pieced together the scenario, I recalled an earlier crisis that occurred in Margaret's last year at Oakley Elementary School. I blogged about it here: https://www.aileengoeson.com/?p=123
So, no worries. It's all good.