Have a good rest. Don’t forget, Daddy will be here when you wake up. I’ll see you in a little while. Love you.
I closed the door and walked quickly into my room. Thirty minutes. I plugged in the curling iron and began scanning the closet for something comfortable, yet professional. Picked a simple blue button-down shirt to go with my jeans and put it on. The slept-on-it frizz curled into compliance, the five-hours-of-sleep bags under my eyes properly concealed, I took a look in the mirror.
And I smiled at her. Hello. You’re back.
I fastened the little bean necklace he gave me four years ago, at the time little knowing but fervently praying that there was one growing inside me. I wore it nearly every day, then reluctantly hung it up when chubby fingers found it and wanted to pull. They pulled me here, back home, away from that face in the mirror. Away from the life in which I wore shirts with collars and shoes that didn’t slip on.
I tiptoed quietly into the garage and found the box and the binder. The cover: a collage I made eleven years ago when I first began. I opened it, almost expecting to hear stifled laughter in the hallways or see hands raised in anticipation. I flipped quickly through it, removing what I knew I wouldn’t need, pausing at the photo of smiling kids on a field trip and the crayoned thank-you note still tucked in the back pocket.
In the newly vacant front sections, I slipped in print-outs of this year’s calendar and my new class list. I felt the thrill of the teacher’s spring, which comes in August and not in March.
I walked back in the bathroom to brush my teeth and tie back my hair. I looked again, more closely this time.
Right. It’s not quite you. But almost.
For the first time since I became a teacher, I won’t have a group of children who are mine. Instead, I’ll be a pull-out teacher, doing enrichment classes once a week for students who will leave their own homerooms and come to me. Once a week, for a couple hours at most. A handful of kids, maybe two.
This is what you wanted, I told the face in the mirror. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
I tapped my foot impatiently as the time I was supposed to leave came and went. The key turned in the lock, and he walked in quickly and glanced upstairs. We exchanged the necessary information about each boy, and I grabbed my binder and my purse, enjoying the lightness of my shoulders as I left the diaper bag behind for him.
“Have a good time, ” he smiled, understanding. “You look nice.” The words floated out the door with me as I nearly danced down the porch steps.
I introduced myself to the team leader and to each colleague as she arrived. I sat through the meeting, nodding and laughing and listening along as they discussed the new year and what we need to do in the coming weeks. I noted my questions to ask later, when the bustle was done and just my mentor remained.
They filed out, back to their own schools, saying it was nice to meet you, see you later, call if you need anything. This feels right, I told the reflection in the computer screen as I logged into the network for the first time in two years and located the files I would need. Once again part of a team in which no one has tantrums or sticky fingers. Even if I won’t see them very often.
He told me what we do before we retest the kids. “Talk to them a little, put them at ease.” Yes, I replied, I have some activities and a pre-test speech I always give to my kids.
“That’s right.” He relaxed back into his chair. “I keep forgetting you’re not new.”
No, not new. Refreshed. Reflective. Ready to go.