Another Goodbye

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

In 1990, when my teaching partner, Laurel Sherry-Armstrong and I moved from Hartnell College’s Child Development Center to University Park Elementary, we were happy to become part of an elementary school community. But we were sad to lose the lovely playhouse at the Center.

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Best Playhouse ever, 1990

We mentioned this over dinner one night with my parents, who were visiting from Lompoc. My dad (your great grandpa Lowell) said that he could design a playhouse, and would even build it, if  the District would allow us to put it into our new classroom. Weeks of drawing and discussion, proposing plans and changing them, became months of waiting for the District to get back to us.

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Uncle David helping out

Finally, there was good news! They approved the planned two story playhouse, with stairs and a railing, to be built in room 13. Dad took the plans, built the house in pieces (walls, floor, railings, stairs), and drove it up to Salinas.

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Painting the pieces

He and Great Grandma Billie, Grandpa Nelson and I, Uncle David and your Momma Katie (who were 10 and 8 at the time), Laurel and her husband George, and our friend Rick, all worked to put it together. Then we painted it, laid carpet on the top floor, and even installed a bookcase and pile of pillows for reading on.

The kindergarten kids loved the playhouse. It was part kitchen, part pirate ship, part reading loft, and part cave. It was good for quiet times and silly conversations. It has been climbed on by, I guess, about 700 kids over these 28 years.

And now, the kindergarten classes are moving, and the District hasn’t said that it will approve the playhouse for the new space or move it there. The teachers have no guarantee that it will even be on campus when they return for the next school year. Technically it belongs to me, but I only have two days left in Salinas and no way to pull it apart and move it anywhere.

This makes me very sad. There are so many things right with the playhouse, things that are missing in education these days. Imagination, thoughtful quiet time, and changes in perspective.

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Fourth Generation

My only remedy was to get up extra early this morning, get Liza dressed, and take her up to play on the playhouse before it (maybe) goes away. She had so much fun! I looked at every inch of it, from the plaque Laurel put on after Great Grandpa Lowell died to the railing on the stairs, rubbed by hundreds of tiny hands.

When it was time for us to go, I cried a bit and said goodbye to yet another old friend.

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     Lowell G. Evans Memorial Playhouse      Built Labor Day 1990                              5-7-21 to 12-7-98

Love,

Grandma Judy

Old Friends

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

I only have 5 more days here in Salinas! I can’t believe I will be home soon. But before I really leave my home of the past 36 years, I had a few more people to say goodbye to.

The Hughes family has been in my life since 1983, when my family started attending Temple Beth El Synagogue here in town. I was not born Jewish, but the religion appealed to me. Once I got to know the people, I wanted to learn the language. Hebrew, with its delicate, strange writing and its integral part in biblical history, intrigued me.

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Peonies in the garden

At the time, the synagogue didn’t have a full time Rabbi. When I asked who would be able to teach me, I was referred to Rick Hughes. He wasn’t Jewish either, but was well read and extremely good at languages. He had majored in French at University and studied Gaelic, Japanese, Klingon, and a few others on his own. He had studied Hebrew under the old Rabbi, Abraham Haselkorn.

After a little negotiation, Rick agreed to teach some friends and I. Eventually, the group whittled down to just me, and we stuck with it for a few years. I got through translating a big chunk of Genesis from Hebrew into English and had a great time.

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My oldest friend in Salinas

My family joined the Temple, I converted to Judaism, my kids went through Sunday and Hebrew school, and my husband Nelson was even President of the Temple for more than a few years. It was a big part of our lives. We celebrated holidays with Rick and his family, who were good sports about Passover Seders that lasted for hours and sukkot being built in the back yard. His mother and brothers became friends, too.

In more recent years, Rick has been my French teacher, as well. After I studied with Shawn Quiane at Hartnell College, I wanted more, so Rick helped out. Teachers become friends and friends become teachers. It’s nice the way life works.

Rick was active in the synagogue for years, and then he pulled away. I’m sure I knew why at the time, but the reason has slipped my mind. And now, he has returned. In our visit today he told me he is tutoring a young man for his bar mitzvah and helping with all sorts of Temple chores, like the Kosher Luncheon (the biggest fundraiser) and Sunday School. He seems so happy to be involved and needed again!

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Brother Kevin in the yard

Judaism doesn’t believe in living alone. A person needs to be part of a community to be a whole person. I can see the wisdom in this in the life of my dear friend.

See you all soon.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

The Last Adventure (for now)

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

This past Sunday was my last in Salinas for a long time, because I will be flying back up to Portland this coming Saturday. I have already written about how much I miss my people, my new city, and my new home. I have also written about how odd it will be to live THERE and not HERE.

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Meeting an Old Friend

But now I will tell you about today. We couldn’t let this last Sunday slide without an adventure, so we packed snacks and extra coats (just in case) and headed off. As she ran down the front walk Liza sang, “Hello, World!” My thoughts exactly.

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Swimmer’s Tent City

We walked to Hartnell College to visit the Panther, and saw tents set up. There was a swim meet, with kids from as far away as Marin County competing. The tents give the swimmers and their families a quiet place to rest and change between races.

We took a different route today, crossing the Hartnell campus to Central Avenue to visit Central Park. Some of the play equipment is very old, dating from the 1960s, and some has been updated. There used to be an old locomotive that kids could climb on. It was declared unsafe at some point, and the local Railroad History Museum adopted it. They moved it over by the Amtrak Station and First Mayor’s House, and it is now part of the educational center there.

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Enjoying the Old Stuff

We walked down Central Avenue and talked about the old houses there and what Salinas was like back in the 1890s… dirt streets, fewer people, more horses. Liza remembered that Mr. Steinbeck had a pony he and his sister kept at the local stable and rode in the hills.

And then, there we were, at the National Steinbeck Center again. Liza loves it. The nice lady checking us in decided that we had been in so many times that we had paid for a membership by now, and let us in for free!

Every time we visit, Liza says hello to the paintings of children in the “Grapes of Wrath” exhibit. The paintings depict migrant farm worker children in their shabby hut, and she feels badly for them. In previous visits, she has invited them to pretend birthday parties in the “pipe house” from Sweet Thursday. Today she decided they should go live in the nice camper, called Rocinante, that Mr. Steinbeck drove around the country while writing “Travels with Charley”. It seemed the perfect solution to a problem that has bothered her for months.IMG_5970.jpg

We ate the last of our snacks, said good-bye to Mr. Steinbeck’s museum, and headed for his library! We were both getting tired, but we needed to return books that were due. When the time came to head home, we missed the bus, watching it sail past just across the street. We called Uncle David and he came to fetch us. Naptime!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Strange Realizations

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,img_5874.jpg

This morning, the day after my big retirement shindig, was very quiet and slow. I am generally a get up, get dressed, get out and do stuff sort of person, but today I was still in my pajamas at one in the afternoon. IMG_5879.jpg

Liza and I played with her new huge set of Legos from Anne Crawford. It took over an hour, but Liza persevered and got it done. I literally stopped and smelled the roses that we had arranged for the party.  I got to look at my lovely cards from friends, some of which accompanied a bottle of wine. I have such sweet friends here, which are really the only thing I will miss.

img_5870.jpgNo, that’s not true.

I have lived in Salinas 36 years. I know , I would guess, more than a hundred people. I know where things are, which buses go where, how far a walk to this place, what the weather will be like. I even know this house, Uncle David and Auntie Olga’s house, better than I know my home in Portland….since it was purchased in February, I have slept there just 22 nights.

So what I will also miss, at least for a while, is familiarity.

But familiarity is also what I’m deliberately moving away from. The same houses on the same streets in the same neighborhoods. This feels reminiscent of moving away from home to go to college…ready to move, but anxious about change. Tired of the old, but worried about losing the comfort.

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Momma and Daddy’s Wedding Portrait

But your Great Grandpa Lowell was an optimist, and I am too. Time will march on, bring the new, make it comfy and warm. I will find my new normal, my comfort zone. I will put down roots in my transplanted soil and thrive.

Love, Grandma Judy

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Hail the Transplants!

Retirement Festivities, Part 3

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

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Illustrated Jack and Jill

Yesterday was a wonderful, long, happy day! At school, we had a wonderful discussion about what cities do to remove their trash. We did art and writing, with more students finishing their cardboard constructions and their stories. While the kids were working on their projects, I continued packing. All our shelves are now empty and dusted, ready for the kindergarten classes to come in.

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All packed up!

It was also Crazy Hair Day! Kids came with dyed hair, hair piled up on top of their heads, and even a few sculptures…like on young lady who used a soda bottle! Friday afternoon was Fun Friday, so all three classes (except for a few kids who were in trouble) got to play kickball, have races on the track, or climb on the Panther Palace.

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That’s some Crazy Hair!

After school was my third retirement celebration! The lady from Portobello’s brought quiches and salads, Auntie Olga helped set up the beer and wine, and Jamie Gaynor brought four dozen of her wonderful cupcakes!

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Dear Pat van Noy and Mr. Burgess
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Me, Leslie Carter, and Anne Crawford

Friends that I have known for thirty years, like Rochelle Breschini and Stefanie Burgess came and got to meet new friends like Emma Mandella, Heather Gattis, and Shawn Quiane. Mrs. Breschini was Auntie Katie’s kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Burgess was her first grade teacher! We go way back.

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Mrs. Burgess and Mrs. Breschini

Our friends Mimi and George Niesen came, as well. It was quite an afternoon. When Uncle David and Liza woke up from their naps, they joined the party. Everyone ate and drank as much as they could, but there was still quite a lot left over. We sent some quiches and salads, and even some cupcakes, home with folks. Yummy party leftovers!

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Liza, me, and Emma Mandella

By the end of the evening, I was done in. I was so full of friendship and love (and good food and wine) that I dropped right off to sleep.

Love, Grandma Judy

 

 

 

Some Endings

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Today was the last day of my class’s Reader’s Theater Performances. It was also the first day I got to watch one, if only for a few minutes. Usually the groups leave the pod, the building where my class is, and go clear across campus to other classrooms, but today a group did their play, “A Visit from Cesar Chavez” in Emma Mandella’s room, just a few steps from mine. So I snuck over to watch.

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“A Visit from Cesar Chavez”

I was pleased to see how attentive the third grade audience was. They leaned in to hear the soft voices of some of my students, but relaxed when Brandon spoke. He has a fine, clear voice and isn’t afraid of being in front of people. I was proud of how well he has grown in order to take part in the play.

The whole Reader’s Theater library is part of the fourth grade “Benchmark” series, an English language development program. I didn’t use much of the series, but the plays and some of the reading books were useful. I hope the fourth grade next year takes advantage of this resource.

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The Curriculum that helped

After school it was time for some of the end of year paperwork. Cumulative folders, report cards, writing samples, and special grades for children still learning English all take time to prepare. Since I need to be DONE on the last day, I have started early so there are no surprises.

Once I got home I waited for dear Jane Parrish to bring her enormous contribution to my retirement party…the beer and wine! Thanks Janie! A good time will be had by all, I’m sure.

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Important supplies!

Tomorrow is the fifth to the last day of school for me….ever! Still wrapping my brain around that.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Wise Friends

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

I have gotten to tell you about many of my lovely friends here in Salinas. Today I had dinner at Gino’s Italian Restaurant with one of them, my former colleague and former Principal, Anne Crawford.

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Anne Crawford and me

I met Anne about 20 years ago (without all my school yearbooks, I can’t be sure) when she was a new teacher at University Park. She was teaching what was then called Primary Introduction to English, or something like that. It was a class specifically designed to teach newly arrived  students English. She struck me as having great empathy and understanding for her students and a desire to broaden their horizons.

Having always taught at University Park, when it was a mostly middle class  population, I had never thought of using school to provide what I thought of as normal “kid” experiences. But Anne’s students had never been to the ocean, never gone to a play, never talked about the news. Anne was determined to give them those experiences. I watched and learned, and I’m glad I did.

As our school’s population changed to more lower income, I began to see the wisdom in Anne’s approach. Not all of our new students had yards to play in, family vacations to remember, or books in their home. I remember the first time a student told me they hadn’t done their homework because they didn’t have a pencil at home, I thought it was the silliest excuse I had ever heard. But they didn’t. And I had to re-think homework.

A few years after I met her, Anne got her Administrative credential and moved to a different school to be their Principal. A few years after that, she returned to University Park as our Principal. What a homecoming!

Now Anne was leading our merry band of teachers, and school went from being good to being great. If you have never been a teacher, it is hard to explain how a Principal who knows exactly what it is like to be in a classroom all day is a golden gift. They understand the importance of little things, like pencil sharpeners that really work, and how important it is for students to see the Principal RIGHT AWAY when there is a problem.

Anne brought her concern and wisdom to all our students, and was a fine Principal, even in the hard times of tight budgets and increasing micro-managing by the District Office. But after her many years of working in the public schools, Anne hit a wall with parents who wouldn’t parent and kids who had no limits. She retired.

Of course, as we now understand, retiring is just the beginning of a whole new life. Anne had new grandkids to look after, dinners to hostess, and beaches to walk on. And, like today, friends to buy dinner for. AND, she’s coming to my retirement party on Friday!

Love,

Grandma Judy