Squashing Fireflies

Some of my kids at English Camp. We're trying to make a record selfie but it was a little too dark and the camera was a little too unsteady.

Some of my kids at English Camp. We’re trying to make a record selfie but it was a little too dark and the camera was a little too unsteady.

I remember the first time I saw a firefly. Time stopped – literally – like someone had frozen life in its frame and all that moved were the small, glowing lights drifting through the darkness.

Birmingham, AL – 2008. My family was unloading the car and dragging suitcases into the house we’d be staying at for the week. We were in town for the National High School Speech and Debate tournament. My mind was filled with things that tend to preoccupy sixteen-ish year old girls: friends, boys, clothes, foreign policy and international treaty reform… But the hours of riding in a muggy, cramped car and the apprehensions of the coming week vanished when those fireflies appeared.

The rest of the week I could count on sitting on the hood of our car for a few minutes and letting all my worries melt away – it didn’t matter that my braces hadn’t come off in time for the tournament or that I was the only one of my friends not to advance in my category. It didn’t matter that so-and-so hadn’t talked to me or that next year seemed confusing and far away. It was just me and the fireflies.

But we don’t have fireflies in San Diego, so when life gets overwhelming I have to close my eyes and picture them there instead. Usually that takes too much effort and I just find myself standing in a VONS line with four boxes of fudgesicles.

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Teacher Moments

Courtesy of Hosanna Alm, photographer and friend extraordinaire.

Courtesy of Hosanna Alm, photographer and friend extraordinaire.

The glint in her eyes told me she meant business. The banana she was pointing at my chest told me it was serious. Plastic trays clattered in the emptying cafeteria and laughter could be heard in the hallway. But next to the deserted food line all was quiet, save her infectious, Calvin-like giggling. Her Hobbes, also armed with a banana-gun, had just returned from stacking their lunch trays. Two to one. I didn’t like my odds.

I pulled a banana of my own from my cardigan pocket. Aha!

BAM!

I clutched my chest as the pain of the fake bullet made its way deep into my ego, serenaded by the devilish laughter of the two fourth graders responsible for my wound.

Our banana war continued into the hallway where we were met by boys, also brandishing fruit. They were slightly more Viet Cong in their approach, coming behind the girls and pretending to slit their throats with banana-machetes. That’s where I put my foot down – partly because I can be a serious adult and partly because the teacher monitoring the hallway had just rounded the corner.

I’m collecting a series of memories that I call “teacher moments.” They’re the scattered minutes throughout the week that make my job so … gosh, so worthwhile.

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