Liz's Letter, April, 2016
Liz's Letter, April, 2016
In just a couple of weeks, we will be back out of school. I'm excited and nervous. I’ve been teaching school for 14 years now, and I wonder if this will be the last year. It’s not unusual for men to have jobs that last most of their lives, but it is less common for women. Mom sold Lilliput’s after owning it for only 6 years. Deanna quit her pharmacy job to run her “sewing school.” Sometimes I can almost feel everyone in town thinking, “You're a married, middle-aged woman with a child. Why are you still working?”
I am still working because I think I am finally becoming a good teacher. I got some bad advice in the beginning. “Single out the unruly students and put a lot of time and energy to put them in their place because they are worth it. Let them know you have respect for their intelligence and therefore so should they.” That’s great for the movies or maybe a comic strip written by someone who doesn’t know the first thing about teaching, but in real life I am teaching 30 kids a class and not one or two.
I think it all became clear when I went back to Mtigwaki the last time to see Jesse Mukwa, like I had promised him. He was the unruly kid who wanted to be a shaman. He took Grandpa Jim’s harmonica from me and then I gave it to him because he confessed he stole it. I thought that would teach him about the importance of giving and forgiving, but it seems to have taught him it’s all right to steal. Paul, I mean Constable Wright, said that Jesse was following in his father’s footsteps and is spending most of his time in-and-out of jail. I went to see him and he was scary. He’s big and dark and so angry. I couldn’t see the cute, little kid I knew at all left in him. I failed him completely. It was then I realized just how bad that advice from mom was. Her idea of a good teacher was the exact opposite of what a good teacher should be.
It was because of that time with Jesse, I found I like teaching the kids who want to learn. My ratings from my students and from my supervisors improved a lot. It's quite a feeling, knowing that kids I taught will make something of their lives and they think I am a good teacher not just because I am white. Anthony doesn’t seem to get that. I think when we got married he expected me to quit my job and take care of the kids. I remember he had the same problem with his ex-wife Thérèse. I looked down on her then, but now I get it. I hope he doesn’t make me quit teaching.
Anthony is so irritable all the time. Even when we go ballroom dancing which he used to love, if I go “Yum, pum-pum” when we are waltzing, he yells at me for making too much noise. Then he starts going “Yah, ta-ta” to the beat, like that’s quiet. I liked ballroom dancing with Dennis North, but I am never going to be able to match Thérèse, who was good enough at ballroom dancing to do it in competitions. I hate it when Anthony compares us. Thérèse never went “Yum, pum-pum”. She probably never made any noises that weren’t French and elegant.
Anthony has two weeks' holidays this summer, so I thought we would get to spend some time to ourselves, with just us and James, and maybe Thérèse could take on Françoise again. I think we need the time alone to get things straightened out. Françoise is a sweet little girl - I think she's got the best of both parents, but I would never tell her that or it would go to her head. Thérèse is quite pretty (apart from the sour look she had on her face whenever I was around). That little girl is going to do just fine in life - it's true that your looks can grease the social wheels, so to speak, but being bright and even-tempered will help Francie more than anything. Francie will get along better in life, if she’s not like her mother.
I think Thérèse is close to wanting to take Françoise all the time. If she does, then we can eliminate this whole business of going back-and-forth to her house to drop Francie off. Anthony spends too much time over there when he visits. He thinks I don’t know what’s going on, but when you marry a man willing to cheat with you, then you are going to get a man willing to cheat on you. It’s seems so obvious now and it makes me wonder why I found cheaters to be so attractive when I was single. Anthony, Eric, Warren, Paul. Every one of them a cheater, but this cheater is the father of my James, and my parents adore him; so he’s a keeper.
There was a funny thing that happened the other day. We were over at Caine’s Accounting building to meet Gavin Caine, the biggest pain in the butt father-in-law in the world. Naturally he kept us waiting for him. We were supposed to go to his house for some kind of party. While we were sitting there, I saw Howard Bunt, the red-headed nitwit who assaulted me at Lawrence’s business all those years ago. I guess he finally got out of prison. And get this, he was working on the bushes and the flowers. Gavin Caine actually hired the guy who assaulted me to do his landscaping. When Gavin finally was done with his business, I asked him how he could possibly hire Howard Bunt. And what did Gavin say? “He did his time, and he’s the best landscaper in Milborough and I only hire the best.” I couldn’t believe it and let Anthony know, not that Anthony ever does anything about his dad.
Then can you believe I ran into Howard again. The local theatre group was doing “The King and I” and needed kids to play the part of the King’s many children. They were looking for teachers to volunteer to find some kids who wanted to do the show and to volunteer to keep them in line. I had wanted to do something creative for awhile, so I volunteered. James, my own son, was just the right age and makes the perfect son of royalty. Naturally, Francie wanted to participate too, so I had to bring her. We went to the first rehearsal and who was playing the King but Howard Bunt? You could have knocked me over with a feather. When he saw me, he looked pretty nervous; but not as nervous as I was when he came up to me during a break. He said he understood I wouldn’t like him to be around, and so he told me he would keep his distance. And he did. And it’s good thing he did, because I was going to watch him like a hawk.
It was so weird. I hate to admit it, but Howard can really sing. Thanks to working outside all the time, he is in really good shape and the King runs around shirtless for most of the show. So many women in the theatre group were flirting with him. Howard is nowhere nearly as good-looking as Eric Chamberlain, or Warren Blackwood, or Paul Wright, or Anthony, or 3-day-old roadkill. He’s probably the ugliest guy I ever met; but he is pretty ripped, and these women were after him. The weirdest part is Howard was the same old Howard I remembered. If some woman said, “I need to move this prop, Howard.” He would say, “You can move my props anytime.” Or if some woman sort of play-punched him, Howard would say, “I like a lady who hits back.” That used to make me so mad when he said things like that to me when we worked together for Lawrence, but these women just laughed at him and said, “Oh, Howard. You are such a flirt.” What is wrong with them? Can’t they see he is just waiting for the moment to get them alone and assault them?
Naturally, Francie loved him. At 11 years old, she is just at the age to notice boys, even ugly, middle-aged guys like Howard. All the way home, she went on about how he told her she was good at acting and dancing and singing. It was like she had never gotten a compliment before in her life. It figures that the man I hate most in the world is a man she would like. Francie can be so contrary.
Well, it’s time to get James to bed, so maybe I’ll write something next month.