"I think I'll be a clown when I get grown," said Dill. "Yes, sir, a clown.... There ain't one thing in this world I can do about folks except laugh, so I'm gonna join the circus and laugh my head off."
"You got it backwards, Dill," said Jem. "Clowns are sad, it's folks that laugh at them."
"Well, I'm gonna be a new kind of clown. I'm gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks." ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird,
People frequently ask me how I'm feeling, which is nice and very social-normish. I always feel like I'm disappointing them though, because I'm five months pregnant, and have nary a horror story. I feel fine. I threw up a few times, (once while driving to work, which required some orchestration since I didn't want to teach covered in barf.) and my pants don't fit.
People run through the checklist of possible symptoms, almost hopeful I'll say yes. Heartburn? No. Cramps? No. Just wait, it's coming! Okay. I'll wait. *
I feel like I'm disappointing them, frankly.
But if they spent less time asking me about my body, and more time asking about my head, I'd have a textbook worth of symptoms.
Where is the chapter in What To Expect When You are Expecting that explains what happens when a student at your school dies, and you spend the week with heartbroken students, and then you watch them struggle through a long and painful funeral. And then you go back to school the next week, feeling like you teach in a mausoleum.
I don't know about the books would say, but I say I get angry. I get mental heartburn, because I don't understand the senselessness of the whole thing. My heart cramps up with rage because I don't get to feel grief like a parent or friend. My role is to watch everyone struggle,and hope that if the situation arises, I say and do the right thing.
I get mad because I can't protect my goofy, funny, lovable students from tragedy. All I get to do is teach them about themes, foils, and character archetypes, and it doesn't feel like enough.
Remember, students, in To Kill a Mockingbird when Jem finds out that Nathan Radley filled up the hole in the tree with cement, so that Boo couldn't leave Jem and Scout gifts anymore, and Jem cries, but doesn't know why.
We never learn why Nathan Radley is so unnecessarily cruel, bent on taking away any source of happiness for Boo. We never learn why sad things happen, and it makes me mad.
I feel impatient, with little social manipulations and power struggles, with the day to day human interactions where no one says what they really mean, or what they really think, and we all just dance around each other.
I don't feel like myself, these days.
Oh. (That isn't what people want to hear.)
Do you get cramps?
On Monday, during a fairly dry (by nature of the subject) discussion of The Federalist Papers one of my students started giggling uncontrollably. He couldn't stop. Like a hilarious virus, it spread, until everyone was shaking with quiet laughter and looking at me apologetically through happy tears.
I pretended to be very put-out. But secretly, I was happy not to be angry anymore. Happy to know that there is something (even if none of us knew what) to be laughing about. I hope I remember that, when this first little daughter of mine comes home hurt, or angry, or shattered because she doesn't feel quite like herself these days, and her friends think she's lost it.
There is still something to laugh about, I just don't know what, right now.
*Murphy's law says I will experience all of the above mentioned pregnancy ailments. Probably starting now.