In the great state of Texas the Rain Lilies defied an historical drought.
the lilies awoke.
Stretching to meet the sun their fragrance filled the air…
As you may know Texas has had one of the most severe droughts in recorded history. Cotton crops have been lost, rivers, streams and lakes have dried up, and then there were the fires. It has been a difficult time for the residents of this stricken state.
Recently, there were rains over a large portion of Texas, and in the Austin area Steve Schartzman was able to find a very large colony of these beautiful Rain Lilies. That is the colony in the picture above and their name tells you their story. When rain comes it takes only a few short days and the lilies spring forth. Sadly, their beauty is short-lived, but for the time they are here you may choose to take them for granted or, as he has done, go out and enjoy them, photograph them, breathe in their fragrance, and share the experience with others. In so doing, he has made his readers aware and they take notice of their environment, enjoying the loveliness of a fleeting little white lily. An ephemeral in the floral world.
Ephemeral: Lasting a very short time.
Ephemeral. There is a parallel for me in this, and it nicely sums up my career as a teacher. I returned to school late in life and studied hard to get my BA and teaching credentials. On graduation day it was as if I were in a dream. The calling of my name. Me, the girl who most hated school, and barely graduated high school. Fact is, the only reason I graduated was to prove my father a liar. He said I wouldn’t. I proved him wrong. I remember the last name being called, the valedictorian speech, the hat throwing (I held mine tight!) and the million multicolored bits of Mylar confetti floating down from the highest point of the sports arena’s ceiling. I had pushed myself, striven to get to this place. Why, my last quarter in university I carried 21 units just so I could be done with it all. It had taken me almost ten years to make up for ill spent time in high school and to get in all the new learning, but I did it, and I was so proud!
Then I got my first job and my own classroom. I was teaching first grade. Two weeks into the first month of school found me on my lunch break standing alone, the lights off, in the middle of my classroom. Slowly I turned round in a circle surveying the room. I thought, “What in the world was I thinking when I decided to become a teacher?” The truth of it was that I was terrified of the responsibility, and yet, exhilarated too! We learned from each other my students and I, and by the end of the year I was in love with teaching, and adored my students.
I spent three years at Morris Elementary. In my time there I lost my mother. We lost Bob’s father, and when his mother moved into an assisted living facility we moved into his parent’s home. I then left Morris for a position closer to our new home.
My last two years at the new school were very difficult. I broke my foot and the district would not allow me back on campus till it was healed. I was out of work for over two months. Bob had hernia surgery which turned into prostate problems, which led to another surgery, and almost a year of pain and suffering for him. He was one of those rare individuals who bled… a lot. It necessitated two more surgeries, with several trips to the ER, overnight stays, and a blood transfusion.
Then my youngest brother died. He was forty-nine and had a massive heart attack.
“Father, give me strength.” I cried.
You might imagine I was coming unglued and you’d be right. However, as a teacher I was expected to keep it together and be there for my kids. We had to pass the state tests and I had to prep my students to do their best. It was high stakes and everyone was wound too tightly. My coworkers didn’t understand the many times I had to leave, because my husband was ill again and in the ER. They didn’t understand when after taking three days bereavement, I later took two more days and left to go to Alabama for my brother’s memorial service. This would be a total of five days of “out-of-state bereavement time.” This was cleared with the office and I didn’t think I needed to explain it. I was wrong.
When I came back I was informed there was to be a meeting after school and I should attend. I arrived and found that the meeting was about me. In the course of the hour-long
discussion roast I was told by my coworkers I was not a team player, I wasn’t supportive of the other staff, that I had purposely hurt myself to get out of work, that I was making up all the trips to the hospital for my husband’s problems, and the killer was the statement made about my going to my brother’s memorial service,
“You took three days a couple of weeks back, and now you’ve taken two more! Weren’t you over it the first time you were off?” and, “We think you just wanted a longer holiday weekend for Easter.”
I never cried so hard as I did in that meeting. I was destroyed emotionally and couldn’t wait to get out of there.
Alabama is a beautiful state. When he was alive my brother had begged me many times to come and see for myself. I did not get the opportunity. However, once here I realized he was right. Over the course of the rest of the school year I would work as hard as possible to be “supportive of the other staff,” to walk on eggshells and smile when the bile would otherwise have me grimace. I did it for my students. I took it all, and got the job done, for them. All the while knowing that I was moving at the end of my contract. That made all the ugliness bearable because I could see there was an end to it, and soon.
We packed, we moved cross-country, and we were so happy to be in our new home. Bob found work and is now fully healed. I praise God for that because I never want him to be that seriously ill and uncomfortable again.
Me? No, there would be no teaching job for me. The recession, and then later the laying off of thousands of teachers throughout the US meant I would not be hired. Would it have made a difference if I’d stayed in California? No, I was told they laid off twenty teachers at my old school, some with fourteen years tenure in that district, so I was surely on the chopping block if I’d stayed.
Our first summer here passed quickly and I didn’t get hired. The first day of school came, and as we drove by on the highway I could see all the bright faces. I saw the children wearing their shiny new shoes and new clothes. There were parents holding hands with their children and walking them into their classrooms. The teachers looked rested and excited for the new school year. It was wonderful and I wasn’t to be a part of it. I cried.
That was three years ago and I feel blessed. I still don’t have a job, but I have a home that is paid for by the sale of our home in California. Our bills are paid, Bob makes the same wage as he did there, and that makes all the difference. We watch our pennies and we are OK!
I have adjusted to not being a teacher, but Oh do I miss it. And yet, I feel I gained much from the experiences of helping my students to grow and learn. To be honest, I grew and learned as much from them as they did me.
And so it is, that I feel a connection to the Rain Lily Steve shared with us on his site. Though my career was short as a teacher, I drank it in, blossomed, cast seeds then faded.
the beauty of my time in teaching remains.
If you would like to see more of Steve Schwartzman’s beautiful work, then please visit his website Portraits of Wildflowers .
Thank you Steve for allowing me to illustrate my story with your lovely photographs.
12 thoughts on “Ephemera”
That was a wonderful and grueling piece of writing. You have been through the wringer and there you are toughing it out, pushing forward and being marvellous. and sending us beautiful flowers… Keep writing your lesson plans and keep upskilling if you can, because there will be another job for you out there..(if you want it) and I know all about those mealy mouthed myopic point scoring windbags that go on and on about team playing and all that rubbish and have their little meetings. It was appalling that meeting. If i was a Dean at that school it never would have happened. THEY were not team players because THEY did not support you.. mercy people are so mean.. kindness is the most underrated quality in a person. I always look for kindness.. and you are kind.. You write beautifully.. keep writing.. c
Thank you Cecilia for your kind words and support! The truth of it is this… the principal was out for the day, and they timed the meeting for after the vice principal left. Later, when the principal returned I went in to talk to him and told him what had happened. His reply?
“Well you have to understand, they are all under a lot of stress getting ready for the state exams!”
Wow, I can’t believe your coworkers ambushed you like that and were so insensitive. Sounds like you had a horrible time for a while and I’m glad you made it out ok. Have you ever thought about being a sub at one of the schools? Even at the MDO where I work, we’re always looking for subs…
Thanks Anke, and yes I have. I guess I just needed time to detox, but I think I would enjoy subbing for awhile! 🙂
Thanks for sharing your story. I was appalled at how your co-workers treated you and that you’ve left a field (for now) that you love so dearly.
I had a similar experience when my grandmother died. It didn’t come from my co-workers, but from the VP of my section. He never quite understood why I was so deeply pissed at him afterwards. Several years later, the opportunity came to leave and I did.
I’m sorry, and I’m glad you left! Life is too short to put up with people like that.
P.S. Kudos to Steve for letting you use his flowers. I’ve enjoyed his blog very much. He’s always gracious in his comments and replies.
Yes, I was very happy when he gave me permission to use the rain lilies! They are so lovely.
I went to school in my 30’s and became a teacher too. Iasted for two years subbing and two years as a full time High School teacher. I really haven’t regretted quiting though I wish I had sought an elementary licensure rather than secondary. Anyhow, I think you have amazing strength and compassion.
I honestly never thought of myself in that way… though if I am strong, then I certainly got it from my father. He was tough as nails! Hm… compassion that would have to be from my mother I think. 🙂
Teaching was my dream job. I used to joke about it being a bullet proof career. I don’t think anyone who teaches ever envisioned it would become the vicious, lockstep, programmed, paperwork mongering torture that it has become. And certainly none of us saw this economy effecting us the way it has. I think now that it probably was for the best. I really don’t imagine that I would be sane if I were still in the classroom under the current demands!
Thanks for subscribing today!
What you don’t say in this heartbreaking narrative (but because it’s the first thing that springs to mind and I will state quite firmly) that your students are your rain lilies and I KNOW they will blossom and flourish in spite of the parsity of understanding in their environment, and this as a direct result of your nourishing spirit in their lives.
So glad you’ve found peace and that I’ve had the opportunity to meet you… Hugs, D.
I hope so, Deb, I really do, and thank you for your kind words.