Last Tuesday was our first day back from break. Well, not our first day technically, that was Monday. Tuesday was the first day back with kids. The district gave the kids one more day of break so staff could prepare for to start with The Covid’s sibling, Omicron. Grade level meetings for the week were canceled, so, my usually busy start to a Tuesday, had a more relaxed pace.

I eagerly awaited 9:00 when I would begin teaching again. I got to begin 2022 with one of my buddies. This buddy, a kindergartener, and I have been working together for a few months. He’s a great one. All kindergarteners are, but this one, he’s got my heart. He’s got my heart and every time I pick him up, he’s got my hand.

I made my way down to his classroom. I saw him. He saw me. He paused. “Hi.” he said in his calm way. “Hey buddy! Happy New Year!” Silence hung in the air. Finally, “Happy New Year.” he finally said in response. “Can you go get your red book bag?” He nodded and off he went to the cubbies. No sooner was he back that he reached for my hand and just like that 2022 was starting out in the same way 2021 ended.

We walked, hand in hand, to my room. We chatted. We passed our custodian, Mr. Al. “Happy New Year!” my buddy said. Mr. Al stopped, “Happy New Year to you, too!” To hear him interact with another in a positive, appropriate way, warmed my heart just like his hand in my warmed me.

We sat down at my table. “Can you get your Flair Pen out of your pouch?” “Is this my pouch?” he asked – looking for confirmation that he was right. I nodded. He unzipped his orange pouch and pulled out his orange flair pen. I was moving papers and alphabet cards when he broke the silence of preparation. “It’s not a flair pen, Mrs. Sherriff.” His voice more alert and alive with discovery. “It’s a heart pen,” I half listened to him but then stopped to listen more “A heart pen?” I questioned, wanting to understand his thinking. “Yeah! A heart pen — see it’s got two hearts on it!” He pointed to the cap, where, indeed, there were two hearts etched in on the metal clip. Paper Mate’s logo. “You are right, buddy! It is a heart pen and that’s so much better than calling it a flair pen.”

When my oldest, now 21, was little, she never used the term bare feet. To her, bare feet, was better captured with “wearing my toes”. Kids are so smart, wise in ways that we are not. Once again, I was reminded of just that. It’s not a flair pen, it’s a heart pen. And nothing’s better than heart.

creativity gifts

to Billy/Dad

“Where’s the paper? Where’s the crayons? Do we have any glitter glue?” The questions were filling the air faster than anyone could answer them.

“I wish someone had told me about this!” He proclaimed as he frantically ran downstairs in search of the good paper.

“WE DID!” A chorus answered.

The calm of Christmas Eve morning had been replace by creative Christmas chaos.

About a month ago, we were all finishing up dinner together when I proposed the start of a new family tradition. “This Christmas, everyone has to make a homemade card for everyone else.” The proposition hung in the air for about thirty seconds. “Just a card?” “Yup. Just a card. You can do what ever else you want but you have to make a homemade card.” With that, we all agreed on that November day that we’d channel our creativity and prepare for the spirit of Christmas through card making. “I’ll be making mine on Christmas morning!” Hannah admitted. With that, we also all returned to our daily living, card making lingering in the back of our minds.

“I gotta finish mine!” Megan proclaimed. “I’m actually done!” Hannah said quietly. “YOU are done!?!” I said in complete disbelief. Like Megan, and Grace I, myself had to get mine done on Christmas Eve. I had an idea a few weeks prior but failed to sit down and get it done. Billy on the other hand, claimed to have never been told about the “event”, hence his Christmas Eve partial panic.

For about an hour or so, right before lunch on Christmas eve, our home was filled with the spirit of Christmas – giving.

Then next day, on Christmas morning, it was the very last gift we gave. Grace passed out her cards first. On the count of three we all flipped and opened. Silence followed by ohhs and ahhs surrounded us. We ohhed and ahhed. Some eyes may have filled with tears. Then Billy, gifted us each one of his masterpieces. We laughed and celebrated his creativity. Then Hannah, made the rounds. “I didn’t write anything!” “You didn’t have to write anything.” we said in unison. Again, on the count of three, we all flipped. Immediate “Ahhhhhs!” and “Oh Hannahs!” filled the room. Then Megan, the ever thoughtful Megan, handed out her beautifully crafted cards, IN homemade envelopes. Finally, I handed out mine.

The gift of creativity, in the form of a handmade card, was the perfect addition to our Christmas morning.

empty chair?

Chrismas 2018

“It’s sad being there without Grampa. I miss him.” Grace whispered.

“I miss him, too.”

We were heading home after spending the day at my Mom’s celebrating Christmas with my brothers, sister and all my nieces and nephews. We hadn’t gathered together at my Mom’s for Christmas since my Dad passed away in 2019.

Standard protocol for any family gathering is pictures. So before two of my nephews headed out, I ever so gently ordered everyone to gather around my Mom for a picture. My Mom sat in one of the two shaker rockers that my Dad had designed, crafted and made with his own hands in his basement workshop.

Earlier in the day, she had booted Billy right out of that chair, “That’s mine!” she laughed, motioning to Billy to get up. “That’s the Queen’s chair!” my brother informed him. Billy promptly stood, rising as if he’d sat on a tack. All the grands gathered around our Queen. “Quick! Everyone get it in!” I ordered. One by one, some more reluctant than others, the entire family gathered around our Queen, including my nephew Zach via Face-time. John, my sister’s boyfriend snapped the first few. I hopped out, he hopped in and snapped the rest. No one likes a prolonged photo shoot, so we snap, snap, snapped, quickly scanned the snaps, and dispersed from around our Queen.

Later that night, I relived the day and scrolled through the pics, stopping periodically, appreciating the images and the people in them. When the multiple pictures of the wole gang appeared, I stopped. I lingered a bit longer on an image I caught as well as an image John caught. I lingered, my eyes drawn to the unoccupied shaker rocker. I smiled. It was then I knew, that my Dad was still with us. He always is.

The chair may have been empty, but he was there. What my eyes did not see, my heart and soul knew.

John’s pic of our Queen and her court
My pic of our Queen and her court

tending to feed

My husband and I grew up with gardens. Both my father-in-law and my Dad were known in their respective neighborhoods for the grand, bountiful gardens. So it was it only made sense that Billy and I would eventually have a garden to tend. We started out small. Our “Poolside Garden” lined the back fence of our pool. Tomatoes and eggplant became the backdrop for poolside shenanigans. A few years later, after carefully studying the angle of the sun in our backyard, we moved the garden to side of the yard. Billy built raised beds, we got loom from a local nursery and planted. Tomatoes and eggplant and zucchini were our bounty. Now, our garden sits in the back of the yard. It has grown to 15 raised beds. Tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, beets, potatoes, kale, spinach, lettuce, and green beans are ours to harvest.

With all that harvesting, comes a lot of scraps. Over the years, there’s been many a stinky garbage that had to be brought out to the trash. But that is no longer. Beside that 15 bed garden sits a makeshift compost square. Billy’s used some old metal shelves and some fencing to contain our “simmering scraps”. On our counter is a little bowl that we fill every day with coffee grinds, banana peels, grapefruit rinds and whatever scraps we deem compostable. This time of year, it’s one trip a day to the compost square to empty the little compost bowl. Over the summer, our little bowl gets emptied multiple times.

There’s something satisfying about not only tending to your own garden but tending to your own soil that will feed our future.

ps My mind is spinning with an analogy to teaching children over time but, alas, I started this slice too late…