Symbols - FamilyEducation

Symbols

January 19,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

I typed up a whole post yesterday during my morning office hour, then got up abruptly to help a student, returned to my desk and found the page completely cleared. Blank. I couldn't bring the text back with the magical CPR keystrokes that usually work, and so I sat for a few minutes with that numb-but-angry-smoke-is-coming-out-of-my-ears feeling you get when you've lost the entirety of something you just finished working on and your heart is raging against the injustice of it all.

It was kind of symbolic, really, because the post had been about how this week in my classes we're working on decoding motifs and symbols in texts, photographs, and paintings, and then I connected that to a fascinating talk L. and I had yesterday morning in the semi-dark of his room about his dreams, and then, mysteriously, the page was wiped clean--as if I had imagined writing the post--and I was back to nothing.

Which I'm trying NOT to interpret in any symbolic way at all.

I had just taken several deep breaths and was just sitting down to retype it all, when my cell rang. It was the resource teacher at L.'s school, reporting that L. was with her, and had a stomachache. Poof! that was the sound of my afternoon office hours vanishing into the air (maybe to the same place where my post disappeared) and I briefly mourned the loss of my work time, gathered up my things, sent a couple of quick e-mails and headed to my car where, as I was unlocking the passenger-side door, I promptly stepped in the pile of dog poop that's been lying on that grassy strip for what seems like WEEKS now, and which I've managed to avoid every single time I end up parking in that unfortunate spot but, of course, yesterday didn't.

By the time I got to L.'s school I was a tad frazzled. I was actually looking forward to whisking my boy home, though, plying him with ginger ale and saltines, and giving him some undivided attention. The afternoon with him was looking like an improbable gift, a chance for us both to slow down and reconnect a little.

I checked him out of school (he couldn't get out of there fast enough, poor kid, hunched over, arms clutching his stomach dramatically) and was backing out of the school parking lot, glancing over my shoulder and talking to L. at the same time when thump! Suddenly in my rearview mirror was the back-end of another car I absolutely swear had not been there seconds before. I had hit another car that a lady was, coincidentally (drat it all!), backing out of another spot at the exact same time. Some unsavory words flew out of my mouth and I forgot to self-bleep them out, the way L. does sometimes, but I dug out the insurance information, etc. and the lady and I examined damage. The cars were mostly fine, thank goodness for sturdy plastic bumpers. But in the end, by the time we got home, I was so grateful to just be there; to pour L. that glass of ginger ale, fix him a bowl of snacks, find his favorite magazines and catalogs, cocoon the covers around him just so--to just be home, where we both, symbolically speaking, so needed to be.