The first day back to school the students noticed that I had a picture of Harry on my desk. Of course they asked about it, and all of them had to examine his likeness. In a decade when American Evangelical Christians were still debating if any man with facial hair could be spiritual, Harry went all Portuguese and grew an outstanding mustache when he lived in Portugal. When one of the girls asked me if it tickled when he kissed me, I said it was time to sit down and get ready to work.
A teacher can depend on the first day of school to be challenging It’s the time to seat the students and review how school behavior differs from summer vacation behavior. Usually, the educator seats students so that there is space between individuals and the people with whom they are most likely to converse . By the end of the first month everyone should be settled down. Not this class. There was no possible way to seat them so they wouldn’t talk. Everyone talked to everyone else allof the time. At least, it seemed like that.
Every Monday was almost like the first day of school all over again. I don’t even want to tell you about the aftermath of school vacations. Not all of the students participated in “drive the teacher crazy” activities, but enough of them did to keep things interesting.
About that time, I decided to mix some Portuguese language study into my life. I was already teaching my students a chorus I had learned in Portuguese. I bought a continental Portuguese program on records, and began the alphabet. I had bribed Harry with a kiss to give me his Drexel t-shirt to bring home with me (yes in addition to my engagement ring). After my lesson plans were done, I snuggled up in his t-shirt and practiced Portuguese. Unless it was a day I got a letter from him
Have you ever been in a class like the one I described? Tell me about it.
The suitcases from my trip were unpacked; the clothes washed and put away, and it was time to think about my incoming fourth grade class at the Christian school where I taught. I spent about a week in my classroom organizing and planning. This class was smaller than the previous year’s group. I was soon to learn, though, that what this crowd lacked in numbers, more than a few of them made up for it in misdirected energy. It was the only class that never got a field study trip. There were just some in the class I could not trust to follow instructions.
One afternoon I was on the way to my car when a former boyfriend accosted me in the church parking lot. We had dated when I was in college, but we broke up after a year or so. About a month before I left for Portugal, he asked me if we could hang out sometimes, just as friends. He had, he said, no expectations beyond that. So we had spent a day at Hershey Park before I flew over the ocean. I had not really announced to anyone what I was doing over the summer. I believe I mentioned to him I was going to visit Harry in Portugal. This encounter, though, he wanted me to consider seeing him with the goal of eventually getting married. Yikes! There really is no easy way to let someone down gently in a situation like that, though I tried my best. I told him about my trip, and that Harry had asked me to marry him. I showed him my ring. And I am drawing a curtain of charity over the rest of this scene.
My mom and dad were still flummoxed by the phone call from Harry when he asked for my dad’s permission to marry me. Mom reacted the way she always did. She bottled it all up inside and said little. Dad was kind of quiet, too. Whenever I crossed through the living room, he was sitting in his recliner in the corner throwing sad puppy eyes at me. I don’t think it ever occurred to them that I would move six time zones away when I got married. I guess they forgot when I was considering going to Bangladesh to teach.
Harry’s family didn’t even know that I had gone to Portugal until I flew home. Harry eventually called them and let them know. They invited me to come visit, and I gladly went to see them. They were still kind of upset that I hadn’t said anything before I left. I had actually tried in my introverted way to start up a conversation with one of the family members before I went, but was misunderstood. Of course, they were sad that they had missed an opportunity to send something to him in my luggage. It never crossed my mind that they’d do that or I might have been more assertive in my approach. I would have been glad to do that for them. The first visit felt a bit awkward to me, but my father-in-law to be broke the ice by telling me I had no idea what I was getting into. (He was right.) …to be continued.
(If you missed any of the Portugal posts, and want to follow along, you will find them under the topic, Portugal.)