Evidence of (my)Labor(s) Day

Monday evening, between a yoga class and a grocery store run, I stopped in to the lovely cocktail bar where my love works to say hello. There were a few folks at the bar, including a woman (J) I had met for the first time last spring when my guy and I had stopped at her restaurant while out on a drive.

Her business is located in the small community of Coxsackie, the same place where I had accepted my first permanent position in my field, way back in the twentieth century. I have fond memories of the five years I spent in that small district and remain in contact with colleagues, and even a couple of my former students. It was a great job in a beautiful facility and I learned a lot during my time there – about libraries, students, education and myself.

J was at the bar was with a second woman, K. with whom I wasn’t acquainted.

Or so I thought.

The three of us began chatting, as you do, and I mentioned I had begun my career in their town and the unknown woman asked me my surname. I gave it to her and her eyes lit up in a way which has grown familiar to me – I asked if I had been her librarian. “Yes!,” she confirmed. She remembered my hair as shorter redder and recalled that I had worn platform shoes.

Guilty, as charged.

Circa 1996

As I get steadily closer to my final years of teaching, it’s impossible for me to recall the names or faces of every student I’ve known in my decades of working as a school librarian. Of course, there are some whose names, faces and stories are committed to memory – and even a handful with whom I regularly interact with on social media. There have even been occasions when circumstances have aligned, in various locations like NYC, Provincetown and Albany, and I’ve been fortunate enough to actually get together, in real life, with former students to share a meal or a drink (!).

Do other people , in other fields, get to do that?

Encountering K last night, the very night before a new school year began, sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole. When I got home, I pulled the yearbook from my first year of teaching, down off the shelf and immediately got lost in time. The notes written inside the cover were so sincerely sweet that I teared up – wishes for the health of my baby who had been born that winter, thanks for assistance I had provided to them, appreciation for my humor and kindness…

I flipped through the pages, recognizing faces and quickly hearing their voices in my head, wow – they’re still there. I wondered where they were now, are they happy? Had I given them anything useful for their journey through life? Did I let them know what a privilege it was to have worked with them?

My years in this profession are rapidly coming to an end. While I’m eager for vacations in September or and May and time to pursue other interests, I will undoubtably feel a sense of loss when I no longer have the opportunity to work with, and get to know, young people. They truly are the best part of my job and I will sincerely miss them – far more than I’ll ever miss my natural red hair and those platform shoes.

My goal for the remainder of my career is to make sure every student I work with knows exactly that.

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