Teachers Wearing Black
So, I wasn't really close to him. But something like this shakes a whole..."community," I was going to write, but the word "community" feels so overused and drained of meaning these days that I might as well write "afaglement," or any collection of letters. Organism, I think, is better for what I'm trying to say. Or habitat. Or biosphere. Something where everything ripples through to everyone, from the front-office ladies to the cooler-than-cool middle-school kids to the littlest three-year-olds.
I've had a post brewing for a long time about how the people at my job, the other staff especially, are my Village. I still want to write that post, but this isn't quite it. This is more about the school as a whole.
This is the second year in a row that a parent has died at this school. No one ever did before, in my eight years there.
As I was leaving on Monday, chatting with Pat the front-desk receptionist, Arlene the aftercare teacher rushed through and tossed off some logistics about Frank not being there to pick up his kids, and she had them in aftercare, it was no biggie. "But where is he?" Pat shot back, before we picked up our conversation. I left and didn't think anything of it; parents are always spacing. Pat and Arlene are always checking in to try to deal with something that turns out to be a traffic jam, or miscommunication between spouses, or just a flakeout.
But this time it wasn't. I got the call at nine that night; they were calling teachers and specialists, so we'd know when we came in on Tuesday.
The kids were awful today, especially the younger ones. They bickered and whined and picked on each other. One kid, who's always chipper and friendly, burst into tears out of nowhere and said people had been being mean to him all day. His friends chimed in with stories about mean kids on the playground, but I didn't think that could be the whole story. The second-grader whose mom has cancer has been shaky and fragile all week.
School let out an hour early, so people could go to the funeral in the afternoon. I didn't go; I had to pick up MG at her aftercare. But I wore my black dress and jangly grownup necklace. It seemed like the right thing, somehow. Everywhere I went today, there were kids and teachers and parents in black, so they could go right to the funeral after school.