The Eighth of January

I am finding myself somewhat out of sorts with the new year. As I was walking June home from preschool on Thursday I noticed a few students wandering around the small college near our house. That campus has been deserted since the middle of December, so I’m assuming their new semester starts soon. Seeing those young people, I was seized with an unexpectedly strong desire to be teaching the Winter Term class on Literature of the Americas I taught twice at the University of Maryland or to be busily prepping for a new semester of the horror class I taught for six spring semesters at George Washington University. I wrote on Facebook that I wished I was starting something as “exciting as fresh, new semester,” but that was not precisely true. I didn’t want something like a new semester, I wanted a new semester.

And that’s my problem. I’ve been out of the classroom now for five and half years and I can’t stop looking back. This makes it hard to look forward and it’s time I was doing that. This year, 2011, is the year June will start kindergarten. It’s the year I could, and should start working more than the few hours a week I work now. We could certainly use the money, and I could use the mental stimulation and sense of purpose and identity work would give me. But when I consider my options, I just go around in circles. I can’t think of anything I really want to do. So if you’re reading this and you know me and you have an idea of something I might be good at, please leave me a comment. Sometimes I think I need some opinions from outside my own head. Because my own head keeps whining about things it simply can’t have. It gets annoying.

The year did get off to a good start in some respects. June slept through the night nine times in row. And our friends Jim and Kevin came over on New Year’s Day for a buffet of fancy cheese, fruit, crudités and vegetarian Hoppin’ John (’_John). I’m not from the South, but I have appropriated this New Year’s tradition of eating black-eyed peas on January 1st for good luck in the coming year. I figure we can all use all the luck we can get. It was really lovely to see Jim, who is one of my oldest friends and whom I hadn’t seen in almost two years. He sent me a hand-written thank you in the mail, which was also delightful. I can’t remember the last time someone did that.

On Friday, I co-oped at June’s school for the first time since November. (The school was closed when the boiler broke on the only day I was scheduled to co-op in December.) It was nice to be back in the classroom. It was my turn to make snack so I brought crackers along with celery, peanut butter, cream cheese and raisins in hopes the kids would make ants on a log out of them, though mostly they ate the component parts separately. And when snack was over, I joined the music class where they were listening to Carnival of the Animals ( and pretending to be different animals and I played with the kids inside and outside. There’s a big skeleton floor puzzle that’s new or newly brought out of storage and I had fun helping some of them put it together. I also got to see the kids’ newly invented playground game, 1-2-3 Split. Someone says this and they all go running off in various directions screaming. There is some murky narrative to it, involving screaming babies (always played by June and the Toad) menaced by the Robin and protected by the Black Bear. Unfortunately, things got out of hand at one point and the Toad got the worst of it when one kid pushed another and a few of them went over like dominoes. June was in the middle of the pack that went down and her skull crashed into the poor Toad’s cheekbone. Despite the mishap, June was very excited to have me at school; I think she missed having me there.

On Saturday morning we had a little snow and the kids got to go sledding in the yard before it melted later in the day. I have to admit I was a bit grumpy about the snow. It was coming down pretty hard for a while and after last winter’s record-breaking storms, any snow at all makes me skittish. I see snowflakes and I imagine there will be three feet of snow again and will be school cancelled for two weeks and we’ll all go completely stir-crazy. Beth reminded me it was only supposed to be an inch and that is was a Saturday morning, just about the best time for snow, from a school-closing perspective. I know I should be more supportive of the snow-positive members of my family, but I just don’t seem to have it in me.

Beth spent most of Saturday afternoon talking to prospective parents at an Open House at June’s school. When she got home, I made pancakes with an apple-pear compote for dinner. As I prepared the sauce, I listened to NPR. The top story, of course, was the shooting of Representative Giffords, which made me feel sad for the world, its confusion, its anger and its violence. Next up was A Prairie Home Companion ( There was some fiddle music on the show, which put me in mind of how much I miss Saturday evenings at the now defunct Savory Café, where we used to go see Takoma Zone play blue-grass and old-time music. I was now thoroughly melancholy, wishing we could go there after dinner, when almost as soon as I had wished it, “The Eighth of January” (, one of Takoma Zone’s signature tunes was playing on the radio. And even if a comfy chair and a latte and a live band didn’t suddenly appear in the kitchen, it was as if a little of what I had wished for had magically been granted to me.

Maybe it will be like that eight months from now, when I need a job; maybe it will just come to me. I would like that, even if what comes is only a fraction of what I want in my heart of hearts.

Later in the evening, we all listened to a downloaded copy of “Rebel, Rebel” together, in lieu of our nightly poetry reading. The reason for this is Noah’s new left-handers desk calendar. Each page has a quote or facts about a famous southpaw. It turns out January 8th is David Bowie’s birthday. Noah had never heard of him and wanted to hear one of his songs. (In some ways we have sadly neglected the children’s musical education.) So he found a photo of Bowie online and printed it out for us to look at while we listened. The song was Beth’s choice. I think I might have chosen one that didn’t contain the line “Hot tramp! I love you so” but Noah didn’t ask any uncomfortable questions. All through the song I was struggling to remember the lyrics that were coming up and wondering just how inappropriate they’d be. Despite this, it was also fun. We rarely listen to music that’s not kids’ music anymore. When I have the radio on it’s usually news and I most often listen to music when the kids are out of the house and I can pick my own CD without having to consult anyone else. I think the kids are missing out because of this, though. I have such fond memories of the records my parents played when I was young and the music that was on the radio. It’s something I almost don’t realize I’m missing.

And maybe finding a job or piecing together a part-time freelance career could be like that, too, scary and fun at the same time, and in the end, just what I didn’t realize I should be doing until I do it. I don’t know, but I hope I can be open enough to the possibilities to find out.