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Traditional gifts.


This fall I’ll begin my 10th year as a teacher. There seems something monumental, with a dash of stoicism, and a hefty side of time-warp vertigo about that. Not sure what to think.

For traditional wedding anniversaries, the tenth year is celebrated with something of tin or aluminum. (I’m a sucker for recreating traditions.) First year is paper, sixth candy, etc. I played around in my mind what would we give teachers for their anniversaries? Paper, of course, in the form of books and craft stock. Cotton: comfortable socks, shirts, clothing, cotton handkerchiefs to wipe away tears and blow noses; leather satchels and book bags; fruit and flowers, naturally, to brighten and create health. Wood? Pencils. And lots of them. Candy –yes please. (Although I’ll take mine in the form of cashews and crisps.) Iron? Iron to stay strong, when our blood depletes, becoming anemic, because we don’t have time to take care of ourselves. Wool: mittens, hats, scarves, hobbies–yes! Knitting as a hobby to relieve stress. (That may have been the year I made the World’s Longest Scarf.) Pottery? Replacing cracked classroom objects–the baskets, the desk lamps, the pencil holders? Freshen up desk items, replace tape dispensers and red Swingline staplers? And now we’re back to willow/pottery: willow? Maybe a bamboo plant or something green to work its freshness and vibrancy, a little corner of zen and hopeful feng shui? But tin and aluminum–I’m stumped. All I can think about are cans of Diet Coke or tin-can telephones. I don’t drink pop anymore, really, and tin reminds me of rhythmic, dull, thudding sounds.

Anniversary Traditional Modern
1st Paper Clocks
2nd Cotton China
3rd Leather Crystal/Glass
4th Fruit/Flowers Appliances
5th Wood Silverware
6th Candy/Iron Wood
7th Wool/Copper Desk Sets
8th Pottery/Bronze Linens/Lace
9th Willow/Pottery Leather
10th Tin/Aluminum Diamond Jewelry

But maybe I am not thinking about this correctly: tin is the Tin Man, of course! Sometimes, due to his own misguided notions about what’s important, loses his way, and loses his heart. It takes courage and honesty to get it back, and cannot be done without friends. I had a draft of this post: its timeline bored me. Counting the number of principals, achievements, classes, contributions and connections is a valuable exercise, however that historical record is a little dry. (And no one cares about when I was curriculum leader, or on what committee, or consistent contributions I’ve made: everyone wants results, and to be acknowledged for their heroism. Personal histories are dull and rusting.)

But I can count my friends and colleagues: babies born, death, loss, joy, marriages, excitement and trepidation about change and transitions (I’ve friends whose children went to college before my older son, and some who have children about to go this fall: it’s not a road we’re traveling together, but crossing a bridge). I think I’ll go buy myself some WD-40 an put it on my desk, just as a metaphor of keeping the flow going. These friends of mine: they keep my heart beating.

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2 thoughts on “Traditional gifts.

  1. Wise words, from a very wise woman.

  2. History is only as dull and rusting as you make it. Embellishing and polishing your history is a good mental exercise. Telling the polished story, especially to students, who have no idea what kind of work and effort and sacrifice 10 years of teaching requires, gives them a better appreciation for what you do for them. Sometimes teachers are too humble. It is hard to be appreciative of what you don’t understand.

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