This was it. The last day Val will ever work. For a salary, that is. The free work of running a household will continue.
As I made my way up the sidewalk, from my parking space that is next-to-next-to-last in the row closest to the school building, I saw Mr. Principal come out the door and inspect the trash dumpster. It is half the size of our old one, and the last week of school is tough on dumpsters.
"Look at her! Here she comes on her last day of work!"
"Uh huh. I was just thinking...'Retired Gal Walking.' If you need me today, I'll be sitting in my room...doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!"
Heh, heh. You laugh or you cry. Sometimes both at the same time. Here's a chronicle of Val's last day.
6:55--Backed out of the garage and started to school.
7:10--Stopped for gas at Casey's General Store. Pumped it myself, not having my constant school-traveling companion of the past 13 years.
7:25--Popped in my Teacher of the Year CD by Judy Domeny Bowen, to listen to "Thirty Years." Wiped away a few tears. Let "Teachers on Vacation" play right after it. Because Val is now on The Forever Vacation, as proclaimed by her best old ex-teaching buddy, Mabel.
7:40--Pulled onto the parking lot for the last time as a wage-earner.
7:45--Took down emergency procedure posters and the 15-year accumulation of clutter on the bulletin board.
8:02--Logged on to PowerSchool for the last time.
8:15--Chatted with a colleague who stopped to say goodbye, one leaving himself to take over an assistant principalship in a neighboring district. "It must be hard leaving, after putting in all those years."
"STILL reminding me how old I am, and how young you are?"
"No...that's not what--"
Mr. Principal stepped in from the hall. "I heard you! Just like when you sit at the lunch table and tell me, 'You're only two years younger than my dad."
"Yeah! As if we thought he would change!"
8:30--The colleague taking over my classroom dropped in to ask if I minded her moving some of her stuff into my cabinets.
"No. Go right ahead. I'll just be sitting here deleting documents."
8:45--Chatted with mover about stuff that was staying, stuff that was going to the relocated science room for my replacement.
8:50--Mr. Principal returned and looked in. "Uh...you're already moving stuff in?"
"I know, right? My body isn't even cold yet, and here she is, taking over!"
9:00--Carried four giant 3-inch ring binders full of documents from my S L O / U O I to the office, since I surely would never need them again, and Mr. Principal had said he would use them for examples. Which I think means that Val was exemplary in discharging her job duties.
9:05--Had check-out form partially completed by Mr. Principal. Turned in keys. Went to counselor's office for signatures. Was told to print out final grades and sign them. "That's PREPOSTEROUS! Nobody said we had to print them! That announcement said to make sure they were complete. They're ON-LINE, for cryin' out loud!"
9:10--Printed out final grades and signed them. Returned to counselor's office for sign-off.
9:15--Chatted with Mover and Helper about why phones were being switched out as well, rather than staying in room of origin, coordinated with room numbers. Mover: "LOOK at THIS! It's like CHRISTMAS! Febreeze! And Germ-X!"
9:20--Chatted with End Hall Golf Dude, not a close pal, but a stand-up guy.
"I know. You wish you were me!"
"Not really. No use wishing my life away."
"Great! Just tell me my life is pretty much over now!"
"I didn't mean it that way..."
9:45--Heard Science Crony in the hall, announcing to an unseen collaborator that now there would be an extra desk. (?)
10:00--Showed Mover and Helper the stash of pencils, tape, pens, and dry erase markers I was leaving in my desk drawer for Mover. Found out Aide is taking my desk, even though Science Crony wants it.
10:20--Chatted with Science Crony about textbooks. Tactfully avoided mention of hearing the "extra desk" claim.
10:30--Bathroom break. NO LINE!
10:40--Finished deletion of files from Documents, having already removed any belonging to me from the public drive, the teacher drive, and the unshared teacher drive.
10:55--Received and responded to texts from Hick about cars for The Pony, and a text then phone call from Genius about graduation pictures.
11:10--Packed up my laptop and accouterments.
11:15--Went to the office to check out. Had to wait for counselor having a chat in Mr. Principal's office. Line built up behind me. Technically in front, since I stood behind the counter facing the incoming seated by the door.
11:20--Said I would be thinking of them next year. Was told by my little foreign neighbor not to start it, with a palm showing she meant business.
11:25--Saw "Sweet Alabama Beige" enter the office, for the sole purpose of telling me goodbye. Started to tear up. Big time. As did she, and everyone else waiting, including the secretary.
Val: "I will miss you all."
Foreign Friend: "Stop that!"
Mrs. Whipley: "I'm still working here, just at the boys' ranch, and even I'M sad!"
Secretary: "You guys. Don't make me cry. I'm SO sad right now. She was my TEACHER her first year here. She's always had my back. I have to come get a hug."
Foreign Friend: "I can't believe you're both leaving me!"
Secretary: "YOU'LL still be here! YOU'RE the one who should be crying the most!"
Val: "I handed in my little green stretchy thing. I'm going to ask for my little green stretchy thing back." Entering office to check out. "Can I have my little green stretchy thing back? That my keys are on? I just want it. I was fine until Sweet Alabama Beige came in. But now it's so final...
Mr. Principal: "Little green stretchy thing...OH. Sure. Let me get the keys off. Huh. I can't seem to get it loose. There. You can have it. It's okay."
Val: "Thank you. For everything. I knew you when you were just a counselor, running around with that ne'er-do-well Mr. Turkey Leg!"
Mr. Principal: "I know. And a bunch of us went over to your apartment to hang out."
Val: "Yeah. And look at us now! A few years ago, at one of the trivia matches, my other principal told Genius and his table of students, 'See this? This is all you have to look forward to when you get old.' Isn't THAT the truth!"
And with that, Val made her exit, past the weeping line of checker-outers, who would reconvene in her room before the beginning of the end.
11:50--My little foreign friend lamented that she would have both of us gone from the classrooms on either side of her. "Too bad you just can't keep a neighbor!" She left and Mrs. Whipley sat down to chat. Both of us leaving. Both of us came to work here a year apart.
11:55--Librarian crashed the party. Chatted.
12:00--Leaving time. I took one last picture of my room, with all my stuff gone. Went down the hall to talk to both science cronies, my little foreign friend, and Mrs. Whipley by their doors. Waiting for the all-call announcement that we could officially leave.
12:05--"I guess he's not announcing? Should we go?"
"I dare you to tell on ME!"
"Yeah. What are they going to do, fire you?"
"No! They would HIRE HER BACK!"
We all started walking out. And, with a certain symmetry, I saw that they were all going up the hall, to the exit door by my room, and I was going down the other way, out the end of the building. I turned to call over my shoulder, "If any of you have ever been nice to me a time or two in all these years...maybe I won't put you in my book."
Science Crony looked around. At them. At me. "Oh. You guys. Val is never coming back."
And so ends Val's illustrious career in the field of education.