Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The envelope

Last night was tough.
After thinking about my shoes all day, Adam and went and I "tried on" my shoes to see what fits. Not much. I was right - my right foot is more swollen. I also didn't really take into account that my toes on my right foot are in this weird rolled over position so when you try to squeeze them into shoes, it is really uncomfortable. With every shoe we tried, and every shoe we put into the donation bag, I found myself getting more frustrated and upset. It felt as though the shoes were pieces of me getting tossed because they were of no use anymore. We decided to keep all the sandals to try another day - maybe closer to a time when I would really be wearing sandals - and we didn't even get to the dress shoes. I probably won't even try those on as there is no way I will ever wear those again. The good part is now we have four bags of shoes to donate. I had many more shoes than I was aware of. And yes, today, I put on the dreaded, repetitive, sneakers. Sigh...
While Adam was reorganizing my closet to neatly put back the three or four pairs of shoes that I can actually wear, he came across my school bag. It was brilliantly sewed for me by my friend Janet. I buried it in my closet last year when I knew I wasn't going to be going back to school for a while (who knew it would be this long...). I couldn't bear to have it out. It was difficult to look at.
Inside the bag was "the" large manila envelope. The one that I had carried around with me everyday since February of 2012. It was the envelope I went to when I felt like I was being an ineffective teacher, or I was having trouble reaching a particularly difficult student.  It was the envelope I went to when I was doubting my career choice or I had just stayed up until midnight for the third night in a row writing lesson plans. Almost every teacher I know has an envelope or a box or some sort of place where they keep the letters, cards, notes from students and parents that just keep them going when things get rough.
I opened the envelope and spent some time mulling over the letters from parents, and the cards from the students. I found the letters written for me when I was Teacher of the Year. I read a letter written to me by a parent when it was thought that Governor Christie's budget cuts was going to put my job in jeopardy. I shed some tears when I found the picture of me and Steve Mayer taken at the Teacher of the Year luncheon (I miss my friend). I spent a lot of time looking at that picture. I was particularly intrigued with my legs. The picture must have been taken in the Spring, I was wearing a dress and sandals, and it must have been at a point when I was exercising and eating well because I looked thin and fit. My legs looked so strong! I could see the definition of muscles. And I was standing. My body looks so different now.

I found the Sharon School yearbook from 2011-2012, and read through it, imagining what all my kids look like now. In the back of that yearbook, tucked into the last two pages, I found a paper version of this article:


Take a moment to read it. It is just as powerful today as it was five years ago.

After spending some time with the envelope I put everything back in the bag and asked Adam to put the bag in the closet. I couldn't bear to look at it anymore. And as we were going to sleep last night I cried. I cried deep and hard. I want my strong, muscular legs, and my upright body. I want my mind back in the classroom making an impact on students. I want interaction, and "aha" moments, and kid laughter. I long for the life I used to have and the person I used to be. I miss her.


  1. I can't imagine the pain and grief you are experiencing, but I can feel its waves rippling out to us. We miss you. We miss your excellence in teaching, your excellence at being so fully and completely present in the elementary school. Your writing is a palpable reminder of what ALS has take from us (you and those of us who read what you write). You are vibrantly present through your writing, and though I value this, I am also sad with you. And I value the opportunity to tell you that I'm sad, and that my family's world is richer for knowing you.

  2. I can't even imagine how you miss her and your life before ALS. I can say that I did not know Deb, the teacher, and the woman that I met and have known for 9 months is an amazing woman!