When the Boyfriend Met the Family

The title makes the content of this post pretty obvious, but there is a little bit of back story, so bear with me. My boyfriend, MJ, and I have been together for five and a half years, if you don’t count the break that we took for much of 2012. My dad’s family lives in Toronto, and with the exception of my grandparents, they don’t visit us in Rochester. This is because of hurt feelings as a result of various behaviors when my parents separated back in 2001. They got back together in 2002, but the bad taste has remained in everyone’s mouths. Therefore, my mum has no contact with my dad’s sister and brother and their families, and vice versa. Consequently, this weekend was the first time MJ got a chance to meet them.

The reason we drove up to Toronto was to celebrate my aunt’s 50th birthday. I’ve had a bit of a begrudging relationship with my dad’s family because of what my 11-year-old self overhead and understood, or misunderstood, when my parents were separated, but that has improved significantly over the past few years. My grandparents, who have met and love MJ, urged me to bring him along to meet the rest of the family; a party would be the perfect opportunity. As it happened, my great aunt (Grandma’s sister), her son (second cousin), and his younger daughter (third cousin) were all in town, too!

Having grown up away from my extended family (Mum’s family is in Montreal), getting together has always been an occasion. It’s always a special event and a flurry of activity; I’ve forever envied friends whose grandparents pick them up from school, who babysit their little cousins, and who have dinner with aunts and uncles once a week. MJ’s entire family lives here, too, so I’ve spent a good deal of time with them over the years. It was so great to introduce MJ into my family in the same way.

The details of what we did are unimportant and probably quite boring, but the moral of the story is that my family loves MJ and they love him. I am so glad they were all finally introduced because now MJ has faces to put to names and my family knows the man I love. It’s such a basic concept, but took so long to come to life. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I can’t pick my family, but that shouldn’t stop me from having a relationship with them and from bringing important people in my life to meet them. There was a long period of time when I refused to go to Toronto, but thanks to social media, email, and the perseverance of all parties, I do have connections with my extended family, and I am proud of that. I was proud to introduce them to MJ, and proud to introduce MJ to them. Even though we’ve never lived in the same city, my cousins and I are friends and have fun and share gossip, hopes, and dreams. Regardless of what came to pass between them, my parents, aunts, and uncles have always tried to bring all the cousins together. After this weekend, I can certainly say that they have succeeded.

To conclude, my boyfriend knows my family and my family knows my boyfriend, and I am so thrilled and honored to know and love all of them.

Will you sign my yearbook?

Sign my yearbook? we used to ask, before our writing was good enough to string together more than our names. I didn’t know what yearbooks were the first time I encountered them in kindergarten, but the kids with older siblings were walking around with markers. Sign my yearbook? Will you sign my yearbook? It was only much later, during middle school and high school, that yearbooks became a place to record thoughts, wishes, memories, and hopes.

Remember me, those scribbled messages begged. Remember me because I will remember you.

I took my senior year of high school yearbook to school my freshman year of college and read it when I felt alone. I have all of my yearbooks from my years of school and I do pull them out every now and then. Growing up, I used to love looking through my parents’ high school yearbooks and laughing at their hair, their clothes, and how their friend groups had remained almost exactly the same.

I’ll miss you writing notes to me in science! A high school friend and I kept in sporadic touch in college and she’s taking my roommate’s spot in our apartment next year. Never would have imagined. Be nice to everyone, because you never know how you’re going to find them later on.

Today is the last class day of the 2012-2013 school year. After today, the girls have a couple weeks of exams, the teachers have a couple weeks of grading, and then summer begins. Normally, this time of year already feels like summer with heat and humidity, but that was last week; this week has been cold and rainy and not in the least bit summery. The weather, however, has not altered students’ off-task behavior over the last few days. Some of them have been counting down to summer since the first day of school! I teach freshmen and juniors, which means I have interacted with every grade in the school at some point. Watching my students grow is one of the most rewarding aspects of what I do.

Put the yearbooks away. We still have learning to do. The teachers used to chastise and we rolled our eyes; now I chastise and my students roll their eyes, sneak yearbooks behind their notebooks, and flip through pages under their desks. Have a great summer! Love you! I’ll miss you! I can’t wait to get to know you better next year.

The last day of school, though, has always been an emotionally turbulent day for me. I’ve always enjoyed school, and still do. My friends and I used to sit around and talk about how excited we were for summer, but we were also awfully nostalgic when we had the last class in a certain room, or of a certain subject, or with a certain teacher. When push came to shove, the last day of school was bittersweet. And by the middle of August, we’d all had enough of our summer jobs and enough of sitting around and were ready to go back to school. School was where our friends were and where our favorite teachers were. Our sports, activities, and clubs were at school; in many ways, school became home and life until our home-school lives were so closely intertwined that when high school ended, we didn’t know who we were supposed to be.

Keep in touch, okay? Good luck in college, you’ll be great! You are one of the nicest people I have ever met. Here’s my number; text me. Summer time, woo!

So today, my students will say goodbye to what has been the norm for the past ten months. When they look back on this year, they’ll remember some teachers, some assignments, some special days, and some experiences. They might remember who they sat next to in each class, or at lunch, or an inside joke with a lost meaning. What will make the biggest difference, though, is not lunch table politics, late homework, or a perfect essay, but the people they meet along the way. Wherever they are, wherever they go, and whoever they become, I wish them all the best.

Will you sign my yearbook?

Wedding Bells

A very old friend, let’s call her Jill, recently announced her engagement to her boyfriend, let’s call him Jack, of almost three years, which came as no surprise to any of us. We knew they were going to get engaged sooner rather than later, and aside from thinking she’s too young (Jill’s not yet 22) I’m really happy for them. A few of us were sitting out on the porch over Memorial Day laughing about how Jill had picked out her own ring and dropped not-so-subtle hints to Jack. Someone teased Jill, commenting, “One day you’ll be happy you spent $4000 on my ring!” The real Jack smiled and replied, “I’m happy today.”

Well, that just about did it for me. Not like I get a say and not like it matters at all, but if Jack and Jill are getting married, they certainly have my blessing. What I want for all of my friends, and for the people of this world really, is happiness. If happiness for Jill means getting married at 22, who am I to argue?

My girlfriends and I are all in Jill’s bridal party, which honestly did come as a surprise. (Note that I introduced Jill as an old friend.) A couple of us went to try on our dresses yesterday, which are really beautiful; it’s a Christmastime wedding so Jill’s colors are red and gold, meaning us bridesmaids are wearing red floor-length gowns. Jill will wear red shoes to match our dresses, which is a contemporary, sassy touch to the very classic, elegant dress she bought yesterday.

In short, wedding bells are ringing. More and more of my friends have talked of engagement or marriage recently, with some even planning to get engaged in a couple years. (I don’t understand that logic, either.) My boyfriend, let’s call him MJ, and I have been together for five and a half years and when he heard that Jack and Jill were engaged he hugged me and said, “We’re too young, okay?” I had to laugh.

But it’s not about age, really, is it? It’s about wanting to spend every moment with a person, sharing hopes and dreams, supporting one another’s endeavors, keeping an eye on one another, feeling safe together, loving each other. Jack and Jill, here’s to years of health, happiness, and love to you!

Photos, travels, musings, and ideas on education by a twenty-something teacher trying to make the world a better and more peaceful place