For the month of February, each writer’s post will begin with the same line, which we’ve borrowed from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.
All this happens, more or less.
So many stained glass windows line the walls of the sanctuary that there’s almost no brick in between, a jeweled and glowing wall of color. Chords bounce off the pews in eight-part harmony, and then we all return to a single note, one unison strand unspooling down the aisle.
We’re studying World War I poetry in the English commons. Two students have just correctly identified iambic pentameter in a Wilfred Owen poem. They’re beating on the table and duh-DUH duh-DUH-ing when another appears bearing gifts. Nutrition class made biscuits and this one arrives warm and dripping with butter. My classroom is nowhere near the kitchen, but he’s walked all the way down with the delivery.
A vase of flowers appears on the counter with a note from a roommate.
The set for the school musical is monotone, almost like it’s been filmed in black and white. Students costumed in grey dresses and black jackets titter about a strange and interesting new plant that has appeared in the window of Mr. Mushnik’s flower shop. Their voices are strong and their stage presence compelling. Students I know to be wallflowers, struggling readers and writers, those who rarely say a word are jazz-hands-ing and box stepping across the stage. I’m sad when they all get eaten at the end.
If you combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and eggs with overripe bananas and chocolate chips and put it in the oven, magic happens.
At forensics practice, strange accents fill the halls. Goofy storytellers try out Russian, Australian, Valley Girl, and a very suspicious-sounding Italian. Those with more serious selections search for a West African sound, and Zelda Fitzgerald and I have to Google how a Southern belle would say “place.” Broadcasters roam the halls practicing their diction and rise-and-fall Midwestern tone.
There’s a new room at school called the Innovation Room full of drones and Legos and a green screen and electrical circuits you can build. One of the rules of the lab is “Breaking things is not a serious offense.”
Just off the main street in downtown Holland, the entrance to The Warm Friend looks like a restaurant and often deceives passersby. They enter an old-fashioned hotel lobby and find not a hostess stand but a common room full of retirees. The historic building has been converted into apartments, and Grandma and Grandpa just moved in. The lobby has carpet that makes my eyes cross a little bit, and I wonder about its effect on an older brain. We crowd into a tiny elevator after admiring the mail collection bin, a holdout from the building’s past. It still works, and we check out the slot you can drop mail in once we get to the third floor. Three tall windows let lots of light into the apartment, and one of them is cracked open to let some of the heat from old and highly functional radiators escape. Warm friend, indeed. We explore the rest of the room and then sit chatting, looking at pictures on Grandpa’s iPad and straining our eyes out the window through the gray morning to glimpse the steam of the power station down at Port Sheldon.
And all this happens, more or less. People are murdered. They are mistreated. They don’t always get along. We get parking tickets. Vacation isn’t always fun and travel can be really hard. The world can just feel gray.
But the sun comes out and doughnuts exist and there’s a one-eyed cat who likes to roam the school grounds and often visits my window. This happens, too.
Abby Zwart (’13) teaches high school English in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She spends her free time making lists of books she should read, cooking, and managing the post calvin.