Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blue Plate Moments


N. gave me the blue plate right after college.  We each had our little apartments and not nearly enough of what we needed to make a home.  Tight budgets and even tighter spaces meant we got by on very little.  When I opened my birthday gift that year and inside was the blue plate, I did think for just a moment that it was an odd present.  A plate?  Not a set of plates, but one single blue plate with a large yellow sunflower right in the center. "I saw it and it reminded me of you," she said, which is my very favorite thing to hear when I open a gift. It made me smile and it still does.

Fifteen years later, I have moved four times, married my best friend, had three children, taught more than a thousand teenagers at two different schools, and I still have my blue sunflower plate.  I am the only one in my family who eats from it.  I never decreed this or announced it as a household rule -- in fact, I don't think I have ever mentioned it at all -- but if the blue plate is clean, I am the one who uses it. My food always looks more delicious and mealtimes have a bit more joy on the nights I use my plate, much needed when I share the dinner table with boys who sometimes behave more like monkeys than children.  It may seem silly or inconsequential, but my blue plate makes me happy. It is my little reward at the end of the day, a dollop of evening sunshine.

Sunshine is certainly something we need!  It seems each day becomes crowded with bad news, gloomy forecasts and  plans gone awry.  At school, budget woes cause worries and we wonder what else can be cut.  In class, students may be unprepared, disengaged or defiant.  At home, tempers flare, toilets break, tantrums erupt.  If we let ourselves, we can be completely filled up with what is wrong.

Instead,  I try to seek out what is right.  A freshman smiling after reading his Cisneros-inspired vignette to the class.  A senior sharing news of her college acceptance, her voice giddy with pride and anticipation.  My almost three-year old asking me to marry him and my husband taking my hand in his while we sigh from exhaustion on the couch. Right now, the quiet that allows me to hear these words in my head and the Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Sorbet waiting for me in the freezer.

I  look for the blue-plate moments.  More often than not, they are sitting right there, just waiting for me to notice them.

1 comment:

Christine said...

Mrs. Elliott~

I don't know how I stumbled upon your lovely blog, but all I can say is that I'm so happy I did. It meant the world for me to see you and other Osos teachers again. I was never good at giving a proper good-bye. But I do want you to know that you are the most memorable high school teacher I have ever had. You're spirit shined through and always gave me the exact boost I needed. Thank you so much for being such a devoted instructor, and please know that I would not be the person I am today if I had not had you as an English teacher. Twice.
I love you Mrs. Elliott!

P.S. I'm telling you all this through a blog comment, i know, how thoughtful right? >.<