Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Heaven is a fascinating subject. I think that it is one of those ideas that, no matter what religion you do or do not follow, you hope it is out there. The land of milk and honey. The Champs-Élysées. A mansion and a throne right next to God. Fields of lavender. All of your favorite people. Maybe you've read (or seen the movie) The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom? Or The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold? I do not sit around and plan my funeral/death celebration nor do I spend hours thinking about what's next. But it sure crosses my mind from time to time, particularly when I hear about a friend or loved one who is ill or when I get the news that someone I know and love has died. I like to think that my heaven will be a collection of the people who helped me along the way. Those who taught me a lesson, challenged me, made me laugh, helped me become the person I am today. Champagne and chocolate will always be on hand in a field of Provence lavender.
One such very dear friend is near the end of her battle with cancer. I've known her for 36 years. She mentored and mothered me when I was a just-turned-22-year-old teacher who had no idea what she was doing. I knew that I could go to this woman for advice. Not just sugar-coated pats on the back but real advice. She made me believe in myself. "You are a natural born teacher, Terese." We all kept off the grass and stayed on sidewalks because we lived in fear of being caught by Mrs. Bugg. She would make the kids apologize to the grass and I didn't want to find out what she would make an adult do! I still do not walk on the grass at school. Or anywhere else if I can help it. Another teacher told me today that she didn't really get MCB's obsession with grass until she started gardening a few years ago. I inadvertently stepped where I should not last year when we were working on our school garden while working with this teacher. Mrs. Bugg would have been proud of the scolding she gave me.
MCB also passed on unforgettable nuggets of wisdom when Son #1 was born. "Do not become a short order cook." And I didn't.
MCB invited "the girls" to her beach house annually on Mother's Day because she thought we deserved to get away. I wasn't even a mother yet, but she let me come along anyway. She also had little get togethers, such as the one pictured above. I found that photo a couple of years ago and sent it to MCB. I took a photo of it so that I would have it as well. What a wonderful crew of friends.
A year or so ago, MCB threw herself a party. Oh my gosh. It was so much fun to see so many former colleagues and parents. We looked at photos, shared memories and stories and watched her daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren help her make the party a success. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all had the chance to do this?
I heard from MCB's daughter today that she has a few hours left. I sent back a message that I had dedicated today, the first day of school 2015-16, to her mom. I added that her mom is one of God's Angels on Earth and that I know that she will always be smiling on us and sending us her wisdom.
So, to return to the subject of heaven. What would a teacher's heaven look like? Desks in straight rows? No chewing gum? Where all girls follow the dress code? Homework always done and legible? Never a worry about bullying? No chocolate milk spilled on the brand new carpet? Pencils always sharp and ready to go? Students chomping at the bit to learn long lists of French verbs and vocabulary words? Supportive parents who do not question our ability to lead their children down this path? A huge pay raise? No more snide comments about how we have two months of vacation every year? Or... maybe the ability to look in the teacher crystal ball and see that each and every one of our students will arrive safely to adulthood and be happy, moral, and productive human beings? (I borrowed that from Durham Academy's mission statement.) I choose the last one hands down. Luckily, I am able to keep up with many of my former students and follow their path to adulthood, bumps, bruises, successes included.
I needed comfort food tonight and decided to make risotto. A good choice.
Easy Parmesan Risotto
Ina Garten (Food Network)
1-1/2 c. Arborio rice
5 c. simmering chicken stock
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. dry white wine
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, diced
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 c. frozen peas
Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Place rice and 4 cups of hot stock in a Dutch oven, cover and bake 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. Remove from oven, add remaining cup of stock, Parmesan cheese, wine, butter, salt, and pepper. Stir vigorously 2-3 minutes until rice is thick and creamy. Add peas and stir until heated through. Serve hot.
Bon appétit, mes amis. Be sure to tell your friends (and family) how much you love them.