Yesterday I went back to my classroom. I went after school hours. I went without telling a lot of school friends I was going. I went with Sarah and my Mom and my Dad. I went to bring home some books.
I own a lot of children's books. Not just a lot, but A LOT! I started collecting them prior to becoming a teacher, which was prior to having my own kids. I just always liked the way they felt in my hands, the artistry of the illustrations, the simple yet complex messages that they conveyed. And so occasionally I would pick one up here or there - new at a bookstore or used at a yard sale. The first two I bought new were The Giving Tree and Caps For Sale. I had memories of reading them with my mother. I remember the feeling of rediscovering them in the bookstore, their covers all shiny, the words familiar like a song you had heard on the radio a hundred times. I was hooked.
I went back to my books yesterday to collect them for my children and for my future grandchildren. I want my children to be able to hold these books and remember. Remember sweet moments of snuggling in bed with hair wet from their bath and freshly washed pajamas. Remember laughing and loving. Remember me. And if they choose to have kids of their own one day, maybe these books will be the tools they use to tell stories of their own, from their childhood .
As we sat in the classroom late yesterday afternoon - in the room that was once mine but now just holds elements of me and that is the way it should be - sorting through books, piles of yes and piles of no, I was struck by how vivid the memories were. Seeing the cover of each book was like looking at a photograph, and I could see an image of reading them to my own kids or reading them to my class. I remembered where in the school year that book fit, if it was part of a lesson, or we read it to appreciate its beauty which I would call a "just because". The memories stirred up such deep emotions. And then Sarah came over with Lily's Purple Plastic Purse, with a smile on her face and a familiarity in her eyes, and I knew I had done something right if she loved this book.
I didn't take all the books. We filled up five bags. Most of the books will be donated to a new teacher or get immersed into the other first grade collections. I will go back another afternoon to sort through the rest of my teacher things - bins and bookcases, reference materials and posters. And it will be emotional and difficult.
As I was wheeling out of the classroom yesterday it was hard to believe that I wouldn't ever be back in that space as a teacher.