Thursday, May 8, 2008

September Beginnings: Chapter 1 Minnie, Part 2

Continued from Part 1
As Mom walks back toward the house, she can hear the two-cylinder popgun sound of a John Deere tractor pulling a grain combine in a nearby field where a tardy neighbor is finishing the last of the grain harvest.  The summer's hay harvest is in the stacks, enough to last the milk cows for the winter, along with piles of rank, fermented sugar beet tops which the cows consume with relish.  Where did the summer go?  Where did all of those warm summer days disappear?  Mom steps outside on the porch after dark to check the moon and the sky to see if a full moon and a clear sky will betray the last vestiges of the Indian Summer and leave Penrose at sunup tomorrow with a coating of white frost.  No matter, she has brought enough dahlias and gladiolus to the house to prolong their blossoms for a few days before throwing them away, dreaming already of the reappearance of their myriad brilliant colors in another summer.  She notices that the crickets and night creatures are becoming increasingly silent, though she can continue to hear the comforting flow of the Shoshone River waters as they fall over the shallow dam just a short distance from her home.  She thinks, "Good thing I had Russ check the antifreeze in the car."

Farmers and schoolteachers both live their lives with a calendar that begins and ends in September.  Mother started her career as a teacher when she was young, a profession that she necessarily abandoned while raising her family.  Then, when her children were nearly gone, and the little white house in Penrose resounded only with the echoes of painful silence, she heard the call of the schoolroom again.  She reentered the world of noisy, eager children, some soaking up everything, some defying anyone to teach or tell them anything.  But school was her world.  She knew this world and she knew how to live and succeed in this world.  And so she went back to teaching elementary school.  Once more September became her lighthouse month.  The flowers may die and the plants may stay dormant another winter with the onset of cold weather, but winter is the time when children grow and minds begin to flourish.  Thus, Mom was more than willing to trade the end of one growing season each September for the beginning of another one, a season in many ways more precious and demanding than the one she left behind on the farm at summer's end.  Can anyone who has ever been a teacher not feel a thrill of excitement about meeting one's new family of lovable, ornery, challenging youngsters in a sea of freckles, toothless smiles, and childish devilment?
To be continued . . .


Ann said...

You describe Mother so well - and you write about her in a way that makes her so close. I look forward to tomorrow's episode.
I do remember how nervous Mother would be on the first day of a new school year. We rode back and forth to school together during my last years at home. Her strongest hopes were that her students would like her and that she would be able to teach them what they needed so they would have the best foundation possible for the next year. She was always teaching, whether it was at home (correcting our grammar, etc.), in the classroom or at Church. What a legacy she left us.

Elizabeth said...

One of my favorite stories about Mother and teaching happened when I moved back to Penrose with my brood of 5 in January of 1968. Pat was in the 4th grade, and he soon found some buddies to be with during recess time. Mother was on playground duty one day, and his friends told him that she was very strict. Pat said that he bet he could go give her a hug, and they dared him. He ran over, gave her a big hug, she hugged him back, and his new friends were in awe of him the rest of the year. A fellow teacher told me that he had never seen a school board feel so sad at losing a teacher when Mother's resignation letter was read during a school board meeting in the spring of 1968. She was respected by children and parents alike. I always thought I got my teaching contract in Powell because of her reputation.