This time last year, I wrote a post about moving into our new house and comparing it to our old one. In the same spirit, I am going to dedicate this post to another house: the vacation house we rented on Cape Cod earlier this month. As they say in real estate, it's all about location, and since we booked our vacation house in March (late by regional standards for an August vacation), we should have known that a beach-front house that still had availability and was on for a reasonable price would turn out to be, well... a dump.
There, I said it.
I was not the first to say it, however. It took being in our vacation house for a few hours for my husband to utter the words. We were both trying to stay positive for the sake of the kids, who tend to like anything that's not their own house. I had a minor meltdown on our first morning there when I tried to do the unthinkable and make some pancakes. Big mistake. After flipping my fourth burnt pancake with the world's crappiest spatula on the world's crappiest pan, I threw the spatula across the kitchen counter and burst into tears. (I know, I know, #firstworldproblems.) My husband took over at the helm, managing to douse the pan with enough butter that the pancakes tasted deep fried and thus delicious.
I should backtrack here and say that for a span of seven years, my family never took a vacation. Since we had four children in six years, and since we relocated twice in three years, vacation was a luxury we simply couldn't afford. My husband took all his days off for the birth of our children, or our "vacation" was spent traveling north to visit our families, which (love you guys!) is not actually a vacation. So two years ago, when we finally got to go on an actual, bona fide vacation, it was really like a second honeymoon. With four kids. But it had that feeling of wonder and excitement. That's why I look forward to vacation each year now. It's also why I spend the week before in lunatic mode, making and freezing six dinners to take with us because "I don't want to cook on vacation." All I can say now is, it's a good thing I did some cooking in advance, because if pancakes could break me in this dumpy kitchen, I can't imagine making a baked ziti or a shepard's pie. That would have required all the industry that Laura Ingalls Wilder and her entire family could muster.
I could write tomes about the sparrow that managed to find its way into the wood burning stove pipe, out of the fireplace and into the house, and how it managed to land on my head when I opened the door to let it fly away. That was wild. Even more wild was when I called the renting agent to tell him about the situation with the bird, and he told me, "Well, it's great the bird got out." When I asked him if anyone would be coming out to examine the stove pipe to prevent other birds from coming in, he said, "This is the first time I've ever heard of such a thing in twelve years of renting this property." When I suggested he might want to prevent any future tenants from experiencing what I had, he said, "The bird was probably just looking for a place to lay its eggs." Um... thank you, National Geographic non sequitur.
The icing on the crap cake was the neighbor lady on the beach who greeted my husband to say we could absolutely NOT sit on the beach in front of her house, since she was a YEAR-LONG resident and she made sure to clean all the rocks out of her "back yard." It was, as such, hers and only hers to enjoy. We enjoyed all of the beachfront to the left of her home for the remainder of the week.
It was, despite all of the above, the most relaxing and rejuvenating vacation we have taken to date. We spent almost all day, every day on the beach. We built lots of sandcastles and played frisbee and wiffle ball, our youngest learned how to play Go-Fish and was adorable when he asked for cards in a Pepa Pig accent. ("Dah-deeeee? Do you have any EIGHTS?") They loved their boogie boards and their mini-golf and eating lobster rolls and mussels for the first time. And part of what made the vacation as good as it was can be attributed to our choice to stay positive or just laugh instead of cry. Next year we're renting a house that has everything in it: bath and beach towels, sheets, a functional kitchen, and much more. We sent in our initial deposit to reserve it this week. We'll pay more, but it's worth it. My husband and I spent a lot of time wondering why the owners of the house we rented this summer didn't care. Why they wouldn't have tried to spruce things up a bit, to hire a property manager and renovate. For certain, the owners were no longer paying a mortgage. Were they holding out for the day when they could sell the house, only for it to be knocked down and rebuilt?
Because I have Teacher Brain, all of this got me thinking about new teachers. They are, at this very moment, setting up their classrooms. Chances are they haven't gotten the nicest classroom in the school or they've gotten no classroom at all and are traveling between two or three. In some schools, they'll be given the crappiest tools and the least support. Their requests for help might very well be ignored. They might be given a dressing down at the copier for taking up too much time or not changing the toner, or not coming to check on their copies, which made the machine jam. (To this day, I make all of my copies in person and never send anything remotely to the copier. Yes, fellow veteran teacher, I am still scared of your wrath.)
I believe every teacher, every school, every learner, has the capacity to be rebuilt, from the inside out. New teachers, don't let anyone rattle your cage. You're good, and you'll get better. Ask for help when you need it. Veterans: let's not be a species that eats its own young. Let them make their copies first, buy a rookie a cup of coffee, shoot him a smile, say good morning to her. Those little touches make a big difference -- they did for us, and they do for them. If we want to see them this time next year, let's make them feel welcome and comfortable in our homes.