Save the Last Dance for Me

November 13, 2009 | By | Add a Comment

Today, I visited the school where I interned as a guidance counselor five years ago.  I found some stuff at a yard sale I thought they could use and decided to make a surprise visit.  Really, it just gave me an excuse to see some old friends.

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These are people I care about more than I able to express.  And, that is a major part of the problem – I didn’t know how to express how much I care.  Sure, there was an initial hug and maybe even a kiss on the cheek.  There was a “how have you been?” and “what are you up to?”  They are ingredients to the conversational dance.  There is a rhythm to this kind of thing.  It’s like getting ready to end a phone conversation.  Someone starts to wrap it up.  The other person knows what is coming.  One goodbye follows another.

Throughout the conversational dance, I most sorely wanted to communicate one thing: “I. Love. You.”  But, I’ve never been all that great at dancing.  I just sort of sat there and tried to focus.  I tried to focus on somehow communicating how much I cared, but I was overwhelmed.  Words weren’t helping me.  The best I knew how to say, “I love you”, was by bringing that bag of toys.

I stayed for about an hour.  It was a Friday afternoon.  There was a lot happening.  A soccer ball in gym class accidentally hit someone in the face.  A child hadn’t shown up for detention.  There were rumors of a fight happening after school.  It is a busy place, really.  It’s like being an emergency room doctor and a firefighter all at once.  It’s like using the bopper to try to hammer down all the things that pop up in that game at Chuck E. Cheese.  In Middle School, everything is an emergency.  There are hearts in need of healing in every room.

Eventually, everyone was tied up and it was time for me to go.  My heart was heavy as I exited the building.  The emotions came rushing like a flood about to sweep me away.  And I was swept away.  I was swept five years into the past.  The sights brought back the sounds.  The sounds were of girls laughing on the playground and boys playing ball.  There was the sound of the shuffling feet as the kids came in from recess and the folding of tables as the custodian cleaned up after lunch.  Other sounds were softer.  Like the drop of a tear.

I can’t really separate the mixture of emotions.  There was sorrow mixed with gladness.  Anxiety blended with peace.  Longing for what was mixed with acceptance with what is and sadness for what could have been.  You can go home again.  You just might find someone else living in your old room.  In this case, my old room had had some maintenance issues.  Water was leaking through the ceiling.  It was now being used for storage.  I think there was some kind of issue with the pipes.

The teachers who are still there continue to make new memories with each other.  They live new stories while I retell old ones.  I am a flash in the pan which unexpectedly surfaced for a few moments to display some forgotten shine.  The rush is still sweeping over me.  Like some other reunions, I feel like I want to puke.  What do you do with emotions so strong?  How do you make sense of things which continue to confuse?  Why do the right words to say always seem so far out of reach?  What if you never can communicate how much you care?

I feel like my car always did when I took that familiar bumpy path along the back dirt road to exit the premises.  Each sight is a memory.  Each memory is an open wound.  Each wound is a casualty of love.  My heart hurts.  All of our hearts are hurting.  There is a rhythm to saying goodbye.  There is a cadence to it.  It is a rhythm that no matter how many times I’ve done it before, I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to.  I don’t think we were ever meant to say goodbye in the first place.

And, apart from making national news due to a pregnancy pact, I wonder what ever happened to those kids.

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