Friday, May 27, 2016

Rollin' on the River

The Corsica River begins at the convergence of two streams in a swamp-like area on the edge of the small town of Centreville, Maryland.  The city dock is about a mile from the town center.  Of course we never called it the dock- it was always referred to as “the wharf.”   One day I heard my grandmother talking to someone about where she or my uncles lived- down on the wharf she’d said and so that’s what we all (my brothers and sister) called it.  From her house it was a quick walk down to the river.  Along the way we’d pass by Uncle Billy’s house, as well as Uncle Toodles’.  We’d also pass by an old wooden green building.  It was a bar- I don’t know much about the place except that as kids we were instructed not to go near it.   I never did- but now sort of wish I had.  At the river’s start is a swampy area lined with green and brown cattails.  My mother grew up on the Corsica and boy does she like those cattails.  I recall many a time when she would pull over on the side of the road just so she could clip a few to put in a vase back home.

I’m pretty sure I caught my first crab on that river.  During the summer there were a lot of family trips southeast from Baltimore to my grandmother’s house and crabbing was often an event on the schedule.  My mother would borrow someone’s boat-much like she was borrowing a cup of sugar- and we’d be off.  My brothers, sister and I would find a seat and tighten up our orange life vests.  Mom would stock the boat with everything we’d need for a day of crabbing.  That meant a new Styrofoam cooler packed with a supply of ham and cheese sandwiches, and ice-cold Cokes in little green bottles.  There was also string, a few weights and chicken necks.  Wooden baskets and long-poled fishing nets awaited the first tug on a line. 

Really, crabbing is nothing more than sitting in the sun for a good part of the day waiting for the pull of the blue and green crustacean’s sharp claw.  I learned the difference between the males and the females early on and knew the females had to go back in the water.  Catching them was against the law- I heard they didn’t taste so good either. 

Sometimes to break up the monotony we’d steer the boat close into the shore.  My mother would tilt that outboard motor back inside the stern and hop in the waist-high water with a net in her hands.  She’d take a line from the boat and tie it around herself pulling the boat and her four young children as she searched the river grasses for soft crabs.  I’d sit in the back and sip on that cold Coca-Cola and watch as she slowly made her way along the shore line.

With any luck we’d return to the dock with a catch big enough for an evening crab feast under my grandmother’s Mimosa tree.  If the baskets came back empty we’d wait for the waterman to come in and pay for our dinner.  Either way we’d end the day with our hands covered in Old Bay seasoning and the sweet taste of crab on our tongue.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Opportunities for Learning

It never fails- whenever I find myself at the copier there are papers left behind.  Teachers, myself included, often leave behind originals of whatever they're copying.  Sometimes there are stacks of the same test, reading or exercise that have never been picked up.  The staff gets a few reminders here and there about saving paper and not being wasteful, and while I agree it's important to save resources I prefer to think of these orphan papers as opportunities.

Opportunity #1 comes along when I find something that I can use in my own classroom.  It doesn't happen all that often but when the right abandoned paper comes along at the right moment it feels real good.

Opportunity #2 comes along much more often and is a favorite of mine- extra tests.  I find tests and quizzes of all kinds- math, science, language and history.  While waiting for my own copy job to finish I like to take time to stretch my brain a bit to see how well I know subject areas different from my own.  Math is always enjoyable and rewarding- the problems are fun to mentally work through as I recall what I learned a long time ago.

Today I came across a test for history class.   I looked over the 25 or 30 questions and dug down deep to answer each one.  When my copying was done I put the extra test down and vowed to watch a few more documentaries on World War II.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Impressed and Amazed on a Daily Basis

I recently had a friend tell describe me as "not easily impressed."  I didn't really know how to take the comment.  Surely my friend didn't give her words much thought, but they may quite the impression on me.

The thing is I'm impressed with things everyday.  This morning I woke up to the alarm set on my cell phone.  With eyes shut and body wrapped tight in blankets I thought about the little wind up Big Ben alarm my grandmother used along with all the different alarm clocks I've used in my own life.  And then I thought just how amazing my little cell phone really is.  Call me impressed.

Walking toward the car about an hour later I spied the first oranges of the sunrise as it started to peak above the horizon.  The bare trees stood tall and strong waiting for the morning light.  It was quite an impressive scene.

This afternoon I met up with Pete-the guy who would be measuring me for my new orthotic inserts.  After a little chit-chat Pete told me he would be taking a cast of my feet.  Imagine my surprise when he pulled out his iPad to take pictures of my tired, less than perfect feet.  Once Pete was done he showed me the 3-D images he'd created and then with a click of the mouse sent them to Charlottesville so the lab could start creating my inserts.

Wow.  I was impressed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Oh Edgar

The first sounds I hear when I arrive home each evening are the soft, but urgent, meows of my new cat Edgar.  He is a young one- about six months old- and still at the stage where he worries that I may never return.  I am barely able to set down my bags before he is weaving in, out and all around me. When I walk upstairs cries come from the first floor, for once again Edgar thinks I have left him.

In the kitchen the meows continue and I am always fooled into thinking that hunger is the problem.  I work quickly to get his evening meal prepared only to be met with a toss of the head and another cry.

Finally, I take a seat on the couch.  Edgar is right there- jumping on my lap and rolling over so I can scratch under his chin and stroke his soft, black fur.  It's then I remember that he's just a baby and needs a little one on one attention.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Too Soon to Start Counting

Looking at the calendar I see we still have 13 weeks left in the school year.  With the memories of 10 days off on Spring Break fresh in my mind I'm thinking that seems like a damn long time.  There will surely be ups and downs in the that time.  I'm hopeful that the ups outweigh the downs.  Even if they don't I know that when the last day of the year does come I'll look back and think, "wow, that went fast!"

Sunday, March 27, 2016

No Plans, No Problem

My Spring Break was spent at home.  If you asked me what I was going to do over the break ten days ago I would have responded that I had no plans.  I figured I'd enjoy some down time and make a dent in a stack of papers I brought home with me.

Things didn't quite work out the way I thought they would, but that's okay.  My unplanned break was fun from beginning to end.  Over the past ten days I was able to:

1.  Have an impromptu Easter dinner with most of the family 8 days early.
2.  Sample 4 different crab cakes in my search for the best crab cake in the Baltimore area.  (I found the best one so far in my hometown of Bel Air).
3.  Enjoy laughs and drinks with two of my dearest friends.
4.  Tour a gravel pit and get fresh eggs from a friend's chickens.
5.  Enjoy a long dinner out with a friend I rarely get to see unless I'm sick.  (She's also my doctor).
6.  Spend two fabulous days touring DC with my sister and niece, including a great showing of the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin.
7.  Enjoy Sally Field's latest movie.
8.  Watch a lot of NCAA basketball.
9.  Clean my house...mess it up...and then clean it again.
10.  Find out what was going on with my knee.  I'm on the road to recovery!
11.  Grade exactly one of those papers I brought home with me.

I couldn't have planned it any better.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Family Quorom

With three of her four children at home my mother threw together an impromptu Easter dinner last weekend.  Brother Joe was in town to run a marathon and I came up to visit.  My mother's house is attached to my sister's, so it was only Mark that was missing from the pop-up celebration.  The dinner was simple- there was ham, some macaroni and cheese and a salad.  We all sat down at the table and enjoyed a few laughs as we reminisced about days gone by.  To have almost everyone together is quite the feat.  Mark and his three children made it down to see my parents a few days later.

I wonder if he had any Easter dinner leftovers.  If he did, does that mean we were kinda all together for the holiday?

Maybe next year.