Riding my bike up the hill next to our school to begin yet another in a series of school years, I reflected on all the times I have found myself on that particular incline. I have often wondered just how it came to pass that my ride to work would be downhill, aided and abetted by gravity. Coming home is somewhat less forgiving in terms of slope. If I had my way, I would be able to coast home. But that is not the way things turned out.
I figure there is probably some reason, cosmic or less important, for this bit of topography. One thing is certain, it tends to promote reflection. Which is what happens on days like the one to which I made reference. I've been up and down that hill more times than I can count. Sometimes I try to do just that: count. I've made an exercise out of it. One hundred eighty days, more or less, times the number of years I have been teaching. Minus a certain number of days that I drove, or got a ride. I was sick a few times. Had jury duty. And there were the years at the beginning of my career when we were a year-round school and I worked more than those one hundred eighty days in a row. And days like the one I am currently describing in which I wasn't actually teaching but I did attend a meeting or a training or some other obligation that put me on that hill.
It should be noted that at the top of that hill sits the house of a grandmother. More to the point, it's the grandmother of a number of kids who have at one time or another attended the school where I teach. Which is at the bottom of that hill. It is in front of that house that, on any given day, I have encountered the grandchildren out in front playing, sitting, chatting. Mostly they are waiting for their mothers, grandma's daughters, to come and pick them up. The grandkids don't all live there. They use grandma's address to allow them to keep sending their kids to the same school they have all attended: the one at the bottom of the hill.
And on this particular day, one of those three daughters was getting out of her car. She waved. "Hey, Mister Caven."
I waved back. "How're you doing?"
"Great. I'm taking Demarius to college in two weeks."
I taught Demarius, his sisters, his cousins, some time back. Demarius's youngest cousin will be in fifth grade this year. "That is great. Thanks for sharing."
"No," she said, "Thank you."
That's when I got it. I was at the top of the hill. "You're welcome."
I'm a teacher.