Under Construction

I went to school today and packed up the last bit of my office. I’ve had mixed feelings about it for several days, on one hand thrilled for new office smell, windows and natural light, and flooring that’s all one color…and on the other sad, because this tiny space was a safe space for kids, quiet and calming, and the only office I’ve ever had. Much like my job, I got to make it my own.

Before we transitioned to crisis schooling mid-March, I had a wonderful mother notice that I was putting packing off (I am a well-known procrastinator in our building) and she took it upon herself to pack 99% of my stuff to ensure it’d get done before our deadline in May. She asked questions about things, but otherwise Tetris-ed her way through packing things up within a couple of hours. Boxes and boxes of reference books, gifted best practice, how to teach math, writing, science, reading, yearbooks signed by kids… And my friend’s son packed the boxes of things that matter most a few days before the wonderful mother arrived–the gifts from kids and their families, notes from kids, drawings, handmade origami flowers… I was thankful for both of them this morning when I walked in…it made this process less painful.

I really had very little to pack, so it took about an hour and a half to pack up the last bit, put files in the cabinet, and put the last bits of things I wanted or needed to take home into bags and boxes and haul it all out to the car. I purposely put on an audiobook to listen to (which I’m sure all the construction guys enjoyed–historically-based mystery spy romance… ) so I wouldn’t think too much.

I took down the love notes and pictures from kids and put them carefully in a box for later. I made my “open me first” box with Phil’s note saying hi that he’d left last Chili Night on my door and the cup of “extra bits” to my desk he left for me after he put it together tucked inside next to pens and tape and paperclips and sticky notes. I cleaned out my drawer and shelves, packing away lightbulbs and index cards and pens, feeling a bit guilty about the hojillion spoons from the lounge I’d hoarded unwittingly. I put files in the filing cabinet, and packed away the tutus, Medieval peasant dress, and 800 extra coats and shoes intended for recess duty into bags to take home.

I hauled things out to the car bit by bit, pictures and boxes and bags (and the dog’s crate and baby gate) wondering where I’d put it all once I took it into the house.

And I probably shouldn’t have, but I took down the sign outside my door and put that in a box to go home too. No one will miss it.

I took video before I started and after and didn’t cry during either one. I was numb almost. I looked down the hallway at the skeleton of the building, left gaping and open, dust and debris covering every surface. It would never look the way it had when I left in mid-March again. Our home. I sent a text to my director, quarantined in the office so that the rest of us could pack up in shifts on opposite ends of the building, and teary-eyed, said goodbye from behind our masks 6 feet apart, stifling hugs.

This stay at home stuff is getting old, particularly after two very snowy days, but a part of me is beginning to see this process much like the one our building is going through. We’re down to bare bones right now–dust and debris all over the place, working through where everything will go and what needs to be packed to keep, what needs to be demolished to make space for something better, and what needs to be remodeled or repurposed. We’ve been given a gift of time to realize what’s most important. Our schools, the buildings themselves, aren’t the most important. It’s the relationship and connection with our kids, their families, and our own families (biological or chosen) that matters most and makes our lives rich with memories. We’re all under construction right now…and perhaps that’s not a bad thing after all.

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