Monday, January 23, 2012

Not a Teacher.

After a first semester with wonderful classes and students, but personal health problems, I was forced to take a semester off from teaching.  I am already panicking.  How do I not teach?  Teaching is what I do.  It's in my blood, in runs in my veins.  It wakes me up, and makes me think about the world.  It makes me laugh.  It makes me happy.


I quickly sank into a schedule that is the opposite of teaching, and working.  I don't want to get out of bed.  I don't want to do anything.  I'm sad.  I'm sick with what seems to be the cold that never ends. But I would rather be teaching.  The blessing, is that I am here with my twins.  They needed me...


One thing that is making me particularly sad is missing the the excitement of starting new literature with my classes.  

I begin Sophomore English class reading the short story, "A Perfect Day for Bananfish," by J.D. Salinger aloud with my students.  The character, Sybil, reminds me so much of Stella.  And the story introduces them to the "bigger" themes, and life lessons and all of that.  And the story is particularly relevant to my life, now that I am home, with my young children, but lost too...  Lost without teaching.  You'll have to read the entire story to understand...  Do you believe in bananafish?  


"Don't let go," Sybil ordered. "You hold me, now."

"Miss Carpenter. Please. I know my business," the young man said. "You just keep your eyes open for any bananafish. This is a perfect day for bananafish."


"I don't see any," Sybil said.


"That's understandable. Their habits are very peculiar." He kept pushing the float. The water was not quite up to his chest. "They lead a very tragic life," he said. "You know what they do, Sybil?"


She shook her head.


"Well, they swim into a hole where there's a lot of bananas. They're very ordinary-looking fish when they swim in. But once they get in, they behave like pigs. Why, I've known some bananafish to swim into a banana hole and eat as many as seventy-eight bananas." He edged the float and its passenger a foot closer to the horizon. "Naturally, after that they're so fat they can't get out of the hole again. Can't fit through the door."


"Not too far out," Sybil said. "What happens to them?"


"What happens to who?"


"The bananafish."


"Oh, you mean after they eat so many bananas they can't get out of the banana hole?"


"Yes," said Sybil.


"Well, I hate to tell you, Sybil. They die."


"Why?" asked Sybil.


"Well, they get banana fever. It's a terrible disease."


"Here comes a wave," Sybil said nervously.


"We'll ignore it. We'll snub it," said the young man. "Two snobs." He took Sybil's ankles in his hands and pressed down and forward. The float nosed over the top of the wave. The water soaked Sybil's blond hair, but her scream was full of pleasure.


With her hand, when the float was level again, she wiped away a flat, wet band of hair from her eyes, and reported, "I just saw one."


"Saw what, my love?"


"A bananafish."


"My God, no!" said the young man. "Did he have any bananas in his mouth?"


"Yes," said Sybil. "Six."

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