September 11,2001 – September 11, 2022

Mamacita says: I’m guessing that many most bloggers will be posting tributes today, and telling the blogosphere ‘where we were’ when the planes hit the World Trade Center. Here is mine. This is actually the twenty-first time I’ve posted this on 9/11, so if it seems familiar, you’re not crazy. Well, not on this issue, anyway.

The morning began like any other; we stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, and sat back down to watch Channel One News, which had been taped at 3:00 that morning in the school library, thanks to the timer. But Channel One News didn’t come on.

Channel One News, a news program aimed at teens, did not come on that day.

Instead, the secretary’s voice, over the intercom, told the teachers to “please check your email immediately.” We did. And we found out what had happened.

I scrolled down the monitor and read the end of the message. The superintendent had ordered all teachers to be absolutely mum all day about the tragedy. We were not to answer any questions from students, and we were especially not to offer any information to them.

The day went by in a blur. Many parents drove to the school, took their kids out, and brought them home. Between classes, frightened groups of students gathered in front of their lockers and whispered, gossiped, and cried, and begged us for information. By that time, the superintendent’s order had been seconded by the principals, and we were unable to give these terrified kids any information. In the computer labs, the MSN screens told the 8th graders the truth, but they, too, were instructed NOT to talk about it to the other students. Right, like THAT happened. The story was being repeated by 8th graders, and it was being told we’re-all-going-to-die style.

At noon, many of the students were picked up by parents and taken home or out for lunch. Those few who returned had a big tale to tell. The problem was, the tale was being told by children, and few if any of the facts were straight. The atmosphere in the building got more and more strained. We are only a few miles away from an immensely large Navy base, where ammunition and bombs are made, and we’ve always known it was a prime target, which means, of course, that we are, too. Many of my children’s parents worked there. The base was locked down and those parents did not come home that night.  Buses dropped children off at the empty, locked homes anyway.

frightened children
Administrative stupidity did this.

Reasonable questions were answered with silence, or the statement: “You’ll find out when you get home.”  This, to children who weren’t even sure they still had a home to get to.  A rumor mill can be a horrible thing.

This, added to all the rumors and gossip spread by children, turned my little sixth graders into terrified toddlers.

As teachers, we were furious and disgusted with the superintendent’s edict. We wanted to call all the students into the gym and calmly tell them the truth in words and ways that would be age-appropriate. We wanted to hug them and assure them that it was far away and they were safe. We asked for permission to do this, and it was denied. Our orders were ‘silence.’ We hadn’t been allowed to hug them for years, of course, but there are times and places when hugs ARE appropriate. No matter, the superintendent stood firm: no information whatsoever.  Other administrators in other school systems were doing it right – calling assemblies and explaining calmly to their terrified children exactly what had happened, and assuring the children that they were safe

Not our administrators.  “Tell them NOTHING” was their edict, and we had to follow it or face the consequences, and the consequences for insubordination in this school system are devastating.

The day went by, more slowly than ever a day before. The students grew more and more pale and frightened. We asked again, and again he stood firm that no information whatsoever was to be given out.

By the end of the day, the children were as brittle as Jolly Rancher Watermelon Stix.

A few minutes before the bell rang to send them home, a little girl raised her hand and in a trembling voice that I will never forget, asked me a question. “Please, is it true that our parents are dead and our houses are burned down?”

That was it. I gathered my students close and in a calm voice explained to them exactly what had happened. I told them their parents were alive and safe, and that they all still had homes to go to.

The relief was incredible. I could feel it cascading all through the room.

However.  Some of my children’s parents worked at the Navy Base.  Those parents were, of course, held at the base and not allowed to leave.  School buses delivered their children to locked, empty houses.

I was, naturally, written up for insubordination the next day, but I didn’t care. My phone had rung off the hook that night with parents thanking me for being honest with their children. That was far more important than a piece of paper that said I’d defied a stupid inappropriate order meted out by a man who belonged in the office of a used car lot, not in a position of power over children’s lives.

I'm the superintendent and I am stupid. Very, very stupid.
I’m the superintendent and I am stupid. Very, very stupid.

The next day at school, in my room, we listened to some of the music that had been ‘specially made about the tragedy. I still have those cd’s and I’ve shared them with many people over the past few years. It is true that kids cried again, but it was good to cry. It was an appropriate time to cry. We didn’t do spelling or grammar that day. There are times when the “business as usual” mindset simply is not appropriate.

I wish administrators would realize that kids are a lot tougher than we might think. Kids are also a lot more sensitive that we might realize. It’s an odd combination, and we as educators must try our best to bring the two ends of the emotional spectrum together and help these kids learn to deal with horrible happenings and still manage to get through the day as well as possible.

9/11 tribute torch
We will always overcome.

Ignoring an issue will not help. Morbidly focusing on an issue will not help. Our children are not stupid, and to treat them as such is not something that builds trust. Our children deserve answers to their questions.

How can we expect our children to learn to find a happy medium if we don’t show them, ourselves, when opportunities arise?

I’m still so very sorry, children, that I was forced to participate in that dreadful conspiracy of silence when just a few spoken words might have eased your minds.

September 11, 2001 – September 11, 2022.  God bless us, every one.

Another Mothers’ Day Without Mom

Mamacita says: I cherished my mother, and would give anything if she were still here so I could bring midnight cake and flowers and perfume and dinner and new shoes to her, still. If your mother was less than perfect, you don’t have to feel as I do. It’s not a contest.

If your mother is gone, for whatever reason, you aren’t obligated to mourn, but if you feel like mourning, then do so. I miss my mother every day, but if you don’t miss yours, that’s okay. Not everybody is as lucky as I am, with their mothers. And sometimes, the same mother is viewed differently by different offspring. That’s okay, too.

But I think you all already knew that my relationship with my mother was wonderful. We had our differences, and she could be quirky (good think I’m not) but I appreciated her care of me all my life, and I was glad to care for her those last few years.

She was always there when I needed her.

Mom was a nurturer, and I benefited greatly from that. Nobody is perfect, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. Perfection is a done deal, and relationships are ongoing and ever-changing, not a done deal.

I miss my mom. And when I’m feeling down, I miss my mommy. I don’t need a special day to think of her, but if some of you do, that’s okay, too.

Even if a mother was not all she should have been. . . even if a mother was abusive. . . . even if a mother was absent too much. . . . even if a mother was a drunk, or a druggie, or a whore. . . . think hard. There is something to love in spite of all that. And if there isn’t, that’s her fault, not yours. I loved my mother. I hope there is someone in your life, whether it’s a mother, father, aunt, uncle, neighbor, whoever, who made you feel like my mom made me feel.

And if you still can’t think of anybody, come on over.

Phyllis Grogan Byers, my beautiful mom.

Again, Leave Your Sleeping Teens ALONE

Bad Mom

Mamacita says: I just read another post wherein moms were adamant that their teens NEVER got to sleep in. They got up early every single morning, by gosh and by golly, and had chores to do. Apparently, chores that couldn’t be done later. Getting up early builds character. Only lazy people sleep in the morning. And also apparently, adults in their house were not allowed to sleep in, either. People got up early in the morning because people were supposed to get up early in the morning so by the great horn spoon, EVERYBODY should get up early in the morning. Etc.

I thought a lot of things about these moms but the main thought I thought about them was how grateful, genuinely grateful, I am that none of those women was MY mom. My mom was a GOOD mom. She understood that three of her four kids were wired for the night. Left on our own, in a perfect world, we are creatures of the night.

Somehow, in spite of our slovenly, lazy ways, we managed to earn our own livings, raise our own children, some of whom are also night owls, and live productively in spite of not willingly adhering to the horror of the dawn except when absolutelhy necessary. She herself always got up early, but unless we had to go to school or a job, or had an appointment, she let us sleep. Parents who don’t, are not good parents. Bring it on.

My 37-Year-Old Sourdough Starter

Mamacity says: I took my 37-year-old sourdough starter out of the freezer and fed it. It’s still bubbling after all these years. When I stopped baking bread for local restaurants, I started keeping my starter in the freezer, taking it out and feeding it mostly before holidays or reunions. I last used it for Thanksgiving 2021. If you treat it right, it will never go bad, and the older it gets, the better it is. Kind of like. . . us.

Poachers & Hunters & Trespassers, Oh My

Mamacita says: We used to live out in the country in a big house we hired Amish workers to build. We raised our children there, and loved the house and the property. In back of the house was a lovely big woods, large old trees, and a creek full of geodes.

We built a fire ring back there for our kids and their friends, and they often camped in the woods. HOWEVER. We had to put a stop to the camping because of the poachers and trespassers. Apparently, “woods” means “hunting” to a lot of people, and they do not understand what “private property,” “posted,” and “trespassing” mean.

We tore down several deer stands, and shouted these morons out of our woods so. many. times. Usually the poachers ran away when we approached, but sometimes they stood their ground and insisted that where there were woods, there was implied permission to hunt.

We encouraged the deer – set out salt blocks, etc, for them. Sometimes there were over a dozen deer resting on our basketball court. They were so bold with us, they didn’t even run away when we walked to our car and opened the doors. We were often awakened by the sound of dozens of deer running across our yard to the cornfield across the road.

I hated every hunter who trespassed on our land. I would have gladly seen all of them behind bars.

Was I too harsh? I think not. Poachers and trespassers are scum. (They also stole all our mushrooms and strawberries every spring.) What’s the deal with these kinds of people? They are thieves. Criminals. Is there a defense? I don’t think so. (Still holding a grudge.) (We also had problems with people stealing entire trees – a so-called preacher, in fact.)

I love people, but some people defy being loved. I suppose those people need love the most, but holy cow. So unlovable. Nasty pieces of work, they are. I hope the people who now live in our house don’t have these problems, but I’d bet money, if I had any, that they do. Sigh. Poachers and trespassers. . . . bah.

Abridgements are the Devil

Mamacita says: When I was in the second grade, my teacher, Mrs. Herod (I adored her) introduced me to the world of unabridged fairy tales, for which I thank her profusely almost daily. The stories were dark, forbidding, forboding, creepy, horrifying, cannibalistic, violent, bloody, and absolutely wonderful. And then she read some Hans Christian

Anderson tales to us, and I went home and wept all night. How heartbreaking could a story BE? The Little Match Girl. The Fir Tree. The Little Mermaid. The Steadfast Tin Soldier. And more. I couldn’t wait to go to the public library and check out a book of unabridged fairy tales, and unabridged Anderson tales. No watered-down Disney version could ever compete; those versions are a category unto themselves, but that category is NOT an actual fairy tale.

But I digress, and you really don’t want to get me started on the abridged, edited version of ANYTHING because abridgements are of the devil. Anyhoot, unabridged fairy tales rock, and nobody can beat Hans Christian Anderson for stories that break your heart, and I mean into kazillions of pieces. They’re just that good.