"I think of all the places I have known and that I like to think, perhaps irrationally, have known me. Creatures of time and space that we are, the spaces of our lives are as much a part of who we are as the times of our lives. It is an old Russian custom for one going on a journey to sit quietly for at least five minutes, saying good-bye to the space one is leaving."
-R.J. Neuhaus, As I Lay Dying
A couple of weeks ago I was in a colleague's room and I noticed, on the floor beside his stacks of textbooks, a yellow post-it note with my name on it. It was covered in dust or dirt, and the red ink had already faded a bit. Evidently it was a note to class I had written for someone, and it had found its way to the floor. I was tempted to pick it up and see exactly what I had written, but then thought better of it. Let it stay there, I thought; it will be swept away soon enough as it is.
When you spend five years in any one place, with roughly the same groups of people, your signature - literal and figurative - is bound to be all over the place. You will probably be aware of many of the marks you have made in a certain place, and with certain people; but you can never be sure about others you tried to make, and can be flat out disappointed by your numerous unsuccessful attempts. In any case, you can be sure life will continue, and with time your presence there will be remembered in fewer ways, and by fewer people. You just hope you did the best you could with the time and space you were given, and that somewhere beyond us this is never forgotten.
Today was my last official day at my maddening, loveable little backwoods school. There were no dramatic goodbyes today, no long drawn out remembrances. Everyone was in a hurry to finish their official tasks, have their final meeting with the principal, and clean out their rooms. I went to lunch with my buddies, and though our conversations did touch on changes to come, for me and for them, our talk was mostly the same as usual. In fact, over some outstanding Mexican food, we mostly spent time trading snake stories - something men in the South will always get to if they hang out with each other long enough.
All this is as it should be. My time at the school has been essential to the story of my life, and I hope I have been essential to the stories of my students and friends there. But there are other great teachers for the kids to learn from, and other challenges for us all.
I still have a few yearbook duties to wrap up, so I will have to visit my room a couple more times next week. But before I leave it for good as an employee, I plan, like the proverbial Russian, to sit for a few moments, offer a short prayer, and say goodbye for the last time.
So long, HHS. I love you.