Thursday, June 4, 2015

Beginnings and endings

Joie de Vivre
(photo credit: Anna C.)

My life has never been measured in calendar years.  Since the age of 5, I've been in school.  The year begins in August and ends in June.  Another year just ended.  My 35th year of teaching.  Wow. Summer now begins.  My 8th graders' middle school career just ended.  High school will begin for them in a couple of months.  The photo above was taken at Saintes Maries de la Mer in March towards the end of our trip to France.  It just makes me happy to look at it.  And it also brings tears to my eyes because it is the end of my daily contact with these girlies and with the other 27 eighth grade kids I taught every day this year and last (and the year before for some of them).  I always get attached to my students and the 8th graders hold a very special place in my heart.  They make me laugh and cry.  Somedays, they make me want to bang my head against the white board.  They keep me on my toes.  They make me want to be not only a better teacher but a better human.

I have spent the last couple of days cleaning up my classroom and I came across something one of the girlies wrote for my class this year.  We watched Sarah's Key, a movie based on the novel by the same name by Tatiana de Rosnay.  I stumbled across the novel in Barnes and Noble several years ago.  I had no idea that the events detailed in the book really happened.  I then saw the movie and now I show it to my 8th graders every year as we prepare for our trip to France and they study WWII in the history class.   I rarely get the chance to read what my students write in English.  So, this year, after watching the movie, I asked them to create something-- a poem, a letter, a drawing, anything of any length.  This was written by a very special young lady.  If you have read the book or seen the movie, then you know that Michel is Sarah's younger brother.  When the police come to round up her family during the Vel d'Hiv, she locks him in a closet, thinking that she would keep him safe and return quickly to get him.  That doesn't happen because her family is sent to a camp after three days. Sarah is separated from her parents and later escapes the camp and is able to return to Paris, but it is too late.  Her brother has died in the closet.  Sarah is adopted by a couple, later moves to the U.S., marries and has a child, but she never recovers from the guilt of locking her brother in the closet and commits suicide.

Small white clouds cloud the sky and my heart longs for you, michel.
My life is a bottomless well,
Overflowing with so many things but empty all the same.
I was a fool to believe them and their little lies.
Three days, they told us.
I will never forgive myself for believing them.
The smell of hay in the country reminds me of the camps
There without you, while we sat and ached
and you drifted away, silent and alone.
We should have escaped, tried harder to make ourselves bleed
or vomit or something enough for the french to dismiss us
but we did not try hard enough, michel.
please forgive me.  i will be seeing you soon enough.
the world has robbed me of everything i loved,
turned its back on me and thrown my body to the ground
countless times.
i know why they think i deserve it.
but none of that pain affects me.
the only pain i have has stayed with me since the day i left you
not temporary like the hoses, or electric fences,
but permanently in my soul.
no amount of love or hate will turn me away from my fate.
i have a young one, older than you were,
but he knows nothing of my childhood and neither does my husband.
everything around me now, I see at a distance.
all the people and places I have seen line the peripheries of my eyes
and fade as i get older
i am still young, michel
but i feel as if i have lived thousands of years
in different homes and eras
never fitting in, never content.
just aching, aching with guilt and grief and loss.
no one is here for me now, michel.
papa and mama have gone, too.
I think it is time i join you, i think it is high time.
i await our reunion and your blue eyes, seeing me unadulterated
when it is you i have been so troubled by.
i have had so many troubles, michel.
now i know how to best solve them. à bientôt, mon amour.

                                           --Eleanor, February 2, 2015

Adieu, 2014-2015.  It was a very good year.  Bon appétit et bonnes vacances!

1 comment:

Marianne Green said...

Wow! That is powerful.