I went to a funeral this morning for an old friend. She was 96, had a full and rich life, and was fairly healthy until the last couple of years. She was able to live pretty much independently in her own home until she died. She had a caregiver 24/ 7 at the very end. The funeral was moving, funny, warm, poignant— a celebration really of a life well-lived.
I found a sub for my morning classes and rushed back to school afterwards. Exactly at lunchtime, I walked into my classroom where the students have lately taken to eat their lunch. The cafeteria is very crowded and its ambience is not exactly conducive for relaxation and connecting with friends. It started with just a couple of students who asked me if they might eat in the room and slowly the numbers have increased. There are presently about 25 regulars.
A couple of weeks ago KN got a portable table tennis game. It’s a stretchy net that actually fits on any table and converts it immediately to a ping pong surface. At lunch, ping pong is a huge draw. Sometimes there are obstacles on the ping pong table (school books, resting feet) that need to be negotiated away, but all in all, there is a festive, enthusiastic, upbeat atmosphere generated every day during lunch. Though I have to encourage the students to be better at clean-up, they have taken to be terrific citizens in the room.
Today, when I entered the classroom, the ping pong games were at high pitch. KN was playfully yelling at CH to get his feet off the table. CL, HW, and IN were huddled near the window sharing in quiet, but giggly conversation. A group of maybe ten other 8th graders were huddled near the makeshift ping pong table cheering and jeering their champions. Another group was gathered at a smaller table eating lunch with schoolbooks open, thinking they were doing homework.
It was very loud and very noisy, a bit wild, definitely free. It felt like a communal treehouse far away from the math tests and the essays and the primary source documents of Reconstruction. I felt that I had left one meaningful, quiet celebration of life and entered into another most boisterous and raucous celebration of the same. It made me smile as the holistic significance of it all too quickly crossed my vision.