Cry, cry, cry and cry
I thought by now I was tougher, cooler, or, at least more mentally prepared. But I wasn’t. And so I cried. And cried. And cried. I suppose it is only fitting that my time on the Navajo Nation ended much like the way it began.
During my last week at work, I would tear up every so often as I paused to absorb where I was, what we were doing and what was happening. I have a desperate need to remember.
I need to remember the casualness with which my 8th grader said, "Oh, I already know that stuff," when the high school transition specialist explained to her what 9th grade inclusion algebra included. I need to remember the way my eyes welled up when parents voluntarily went to the podium microphone during our end-of-the-year special education banquet just to say, "Thank you, Ms. Shyu. Thank you, Toby. Thank you. Thank you for all you have done."
I need to remember how irritated and proud I felt when "Elmer" kept disrupting class by chanting, "Too easy. Too easy. God, don't you have something harder?" when he was counting a combination of coins and bills. (He earned a 100%.) I need to remember how naturally my students grabbed crayons and scraps of paper to budget for their meal, including tax and tip, on our field trip to Cracker Barrel.
I need to remember how welcoming it felt to be handed a chubby baby to cradle during Navajo Culture Week when the community came to the school to cook traditional food. I need to remember the weight of hugs around my thighs from 3rd graders. I need to remember 8-year-old "Nathan" telling me that he is going to miss me soooooo much. I need to remember me telling Nathan with tears in my eyes that I am going to miss him soooooo much more.
I need to remember how hard my Navajo mothers laughed at my attempts to flip tortillas in my kitchen. I need to remember how hard I guffawed at them when they tried folding Chinese dumplings. (I admit, they now fold better than me.) I need to remember how I cried when the custodian laid on my desk two of his paintings from 1983 for me to keep.
I need to also remember the pang of guilt I felt when I realized that I should have started the new decoding strategy at the beginning of the year. I need to remember that feeling of wistfulness when I realized I should have begun holding Family Nights and Literacy Nights each month from August, instead of May. I will remember that look of disappointment from one of my 8th grade boys when I told him I couldn't make it to his graduation/birthday party, because I would already be in Texas by then.
Much like the beginning, I cried. But this time I cried because I have been blessed by children, good friends, surrogate mothers, grandmas and grandpas.