Friday, March 5, 2010

marking parties

One of the most exciting things about “becoming an adult” is that my friends are adults too; and now instead of playing house or school or cops and robbers – we actually are those things (well, hopefully we aren’t robbers). I have friends that are moms, dads, teachers, plumbers, police officers, engineers, carpenters and pastors. We live in houses on our own, we go grocery shopping, we write cheques and deposit money into the ATM. We drive cars and take trips and plan weddings. We write music, we bake cookies, we paint for local galleries; we visit the symphony, have dinner parties and play hostess. This is the stuff of daily routine, so perhaps it isn’t really that exciting. But when you think about it in the context of your childhood, it is pretty darn cool.

When I was little, and before I learned to write, I used to scribble on paper instead – to make it look like writing. I would “sign documents” beside a clumsy red X, and I’d pick up my “receipt” after grocery shopping. All of these things were things I eventually started doing in reality, and now that I’m an adult, I don’t think about them nearly at all.

But then, yesterday, I got to do something that I used to pretend to do: I marked a math test.

A group of friends and I had congregated at a local coffee shop to enjoy some live music (performed by our friends). About halfway through the evening I looked down the way at my friends Natasha and Stacy – they were at the other end of the coffee shop and I hadn’t yet had a chance to say hello. I waited for an appropriate break in the music (so I could move), and went to sit with them for awhile. As I was walking over, I realized something: they were marking papers. Natasha is an elementary school teacher. They were marking school papers.

I was sitting down at the table right as this realization was settling its way into my brain, and by the time I was in my chair I was involuntarily (but excitedly) offering to help. Natasha gave me a red pen and I went through the stack in front of me, adding up the checkmarks on page 1 of each test. As I came across each “23/23”, I felt a little twinge of envy; as I came across each “10/23”, I felt a wave of sympathy. “Maybe he’s good at English” I would tell myself. Poor kid. I was never very good at math either, and in my elementary school days I used to dream about one day being so good at math that I got to be the one to put the big red X’s on the page.

I graduated highschool math with no less difficulty than I had passed through math every other year, and I am by no means any better at math now than I was when I graduated highschool (in fact, I believe I am worse!). But yesterday I got to mark a math test! Like scribbling lines on a page or writing fake signatures, marking “tests” was something I used to pretend to do as well. I would write the “test” in one color pen, and then get out a red pen and mark it with the pride and surety I had seen on my teacher’s faces at school.

Marking those tests last night was something very simple indeed, and on the surface, there wasn’t much to it. But doing something I had pretended to do in childhood (and secretly – geekily – always wished for) began a train of thought for me that’s carried me through until this morning: it was fun, wasn’t it; to be a child and dream about all the things we hadn’t yet done in life. Simple things like scanning our plastic groceries or rolling toy cars through the front garden – these were the things that filled us with excitement and passed our time. I wonder, now that these things are common place (as we buy real food and drive real cars), what is it that we’re filling our days with?

The beauty of running barefoot on the lawn or making yourself sick on a merry go round is that these moments require our undivided presence. How much of what we do, are doing, have done this year has required that we be entirely present with the people around us? I suppose what I am saying is this: we are the very things we dreamed of as children. We’re wearing the uniforms, driving the cars, and counting our kids. And these are good things. But I’m not sure this excuses us from giving up our right to dream big and to imagine that we could be doing things in 20 years that seem impossible now. I think I’m going to try – I’d like to have this oddly nostalgic moment again, when I’m 50 and looking back.

if this was you in elementary school, we probably weren't friends.

1 comment:

Natasha said...

Thanks for being the teacher and helping me mark my math tests. I appreciated it and anytime you feel the inkling to play teacher, I have plenty of assignments to fill your satisfaction.