Hello, Summer.

Hello, old friend — bringer of warm gulps of hose water and poorly executed games of sand volleyball. Greetings, wine for dinner on the patio, grimy flipflops, and seatbelt buckle burns. What’s up, itchy Bermuda grass and warm, coyote-friendly nighttimes?

One day, without a word said to anyone, you showed up ready for a fight. You coulda warned us you were coming with such a vengeance. You mighta mentioned you were feeling extra surly. Suddenly, the sidewalk scalds my bare feet and a tank top is suffocating. Now you’re here, and you won’t stop talking about what so-and-so’s doing for vacation and bragging about the wildfires you started and making people dye their hair blonde. Not to mention you stink like chlorine and hotdogs.

But, oh, we do so love you. It’s been a busy kickoff to summer. We’ve been walking often in the evenings, hitting up the parks, seeking shade in Targets and yoga studios and movie theaters, and drowning in iced tea when the day is too hot to look a plate of food in the eye.

Summer, you bring celebrations and birthdays, fireworks and parades. For us teachers, you begin with the end: graduation. Every bottom-of-May for the past five years (and probably much longer, but that’s as long as I’ve been in on it), my friend Kelly goes on (and on, on, on) about how (insert expletive gerund, because that’s how she rolls) fabulous graduation is. It’s her favorite day. Even though her optimism is catchy and I’m excited for the students, I have to admit I could take or leave the pomp and circumstance. But I do like hanging out with friends  and celebrating another year biting the dust. And I like pancakes, and there’s usually some of those, too.

I have high hopes for this summer to be busy and adventurous and peaceful and restorative. I’m looking forward to lots more of the view seen above, and far less of this one, though I will be teaching summer school this year. Now that I’ve caught up with Game of Thrones, I’ll be needing suggestions to fill my before-bed time. There’s only so many iPhone word games a lady should play.

The most calming part of summer is that time slows down just enough that it’s easier to see life in snapshots — still frames captured in my mind, first behind my eyelids and then buried deeper, awaiting a quiet moment. I know one when I see it. Don’t move! I need to remember this, just like this.

And so Summer, come on in. Fill up the next weeks with your indulgences, namely popsicle-eating, night-owling, pleasure-reading, and beach-combing. Bring on your relay of record-breaking heats and monsoons. Squeeze us tighter with every breath. And take your time.


Teach the Torches to Burn Bright?

So for the past four springs, as a precursor to teaching Romeo and Juliet to ninth graders, I have stolen my colleague’s top-notch assignment of giving students the careful task of describing their perfect mate — and then, without peeking — having their parents describe what they perceive as the ideal significant other for their son/daughter.

Now my freshmen students, albeit with questionable maturity and hormonal balance, love this assignment. This is a list they feel adamantly towards. They share their lists and defend their choices. I always find myself surprised at the depth of several of their responses. And, without fail, every year as I glance over their responses, I pick up on some slightly humorous (if not utterly appalling) motifs and themes — namely the stereotypical desires separated by gender. While this is far from a scientific method, I thought I’d share some of the findings…

9th Grade Boys Want:

“Someone who loves animals.” (x2)

“Has to be confident about herself and what she wants to do with her life.”

“I don’t have anything specifically in physical traits other than them to be short. Also I would have her have sparkly eyes.”

“I want my perfect mate to care about school and focusing on having a small family, once married.”

“Likes video games.” (x3)

“Not poor.”


“As tall as me.”


“Athletic.” (x3)

“White or Latina.”


“Hair: Long black, red, or blonde. Skin: Paleish. Height: 5’2”-5’5”. Personality: A little dorky, sense of humor, kind.”

“American or British.”

“Blue or green eyes.” (x5)

“Brown eyes.”

“Kind of tall.”

“Blonde.” (x4)

“She can be blonde but not dirty blonde.”

“Not taller than me.” (x2)

“Brown hair.” (x2)


“Skinny with some muscle tone.”

“Makes me food.”

“Christian.” (x4)

“Pretty teeth.”

“Not super skinny.”

“Not overweight or too skinny.”

“Skinny but not super skinny and have a nice body.”

“Doesn’t wear a boatload of makeup.”

“I would look for the type of person that would care for me, and not to have a affair with another person.”

“She can’t be drama.”

“Nice.” (x5)

“Sweet.” (x2)

“A great body.” (x2)

“Nice legs.”

“No deep man voices.”

“Sense of humor/funny.” (x6)


“Smart.” (x3)

“Somewhat attractive.”

“Loves sports.” (x2)

“No tattoos or piercings.”

“Not too strong/buff.”

“Likes dogs more than cats.”

Boys think their parents want…

“My parents would want someone that would take care of me in my time of need.”

“They would probably hope that she is blonde.”

“Blue eyes.”

“They would probably hope that she is getting educated in a well paying industry.”

“My parents would want me to get some church going girl who is probably unattractive and full Assyrian.”

“Dress nice and wear enough clothes.”

“A nerd.”

“Loves the lord.”



9th Grade Girls Want…

“Acne free.”

“Athletic.” (x8)

“Taller than me.” (x9)

“Tall.” (x6)

“Killer smile.”

“A hipster.”

“Doesn’t party.”

“Doesn’t do drugs/drink.”

“Likes the rain.”

“Doesn’t always think about himself.”


“Someone who would want to do what I want to do.”

“Good hygiene (no body odor!)”

“Good kisser.”

“Muscular.” (x2)

“Any race works.”

“Good driver.” (x2)

“Awesome vocabulary.”

“Loves kids.”

“Smart.” (x10)

“Football player.”

“Willing to go to parties.”


“Christian.” (x5)

“Pretty eyes.”

“Half Mexican and half white.”

“Not too hairy.”

“Thin but strong.”


“Smells good.”

“Wears Hollister or Obey.”

“Opens the door for me.”

“Enjoys good music.”

“Able to hold a job.”

“Good with parents.” (x2)

“Plays sports.” (x4)

“Likes dogs.”

“Loves animals.”

“Strong.” (x3)

“Has tattoos and piercings.”

“Likes motocross biking or skating.”

“Someone who could deal with me as a person.”

“Blue or green eyes.” (x8)

“Funny” / “Sense of humor” (x7)


“He has to be ok with me being weird.”

“Brown hair.” (x6)

“Doesn’t have red hair.”

“Dark hair.” (x4)

“Brown eyes.” (x3)


“Someone that can be my best friend.”

“A brave person to protect me when I need him to.”

“Has similar to a Justin Bieber haircut.”

Girls think they’re parents want…


“Smart.” (x6)

“Good with money.”

“Someone who hunts/shoots and shakes my dad’s hand.”

“Christian.” (x4)

“Honest.” (x3)


“Good grades.” (x2)

“Extremely polite.”


“Is Armenian or Italian and has a big family.”

“Decent job.”

“Respectful.” (x2)

“My parents would write dumb things i.e. doesn’t drink.”

“Mom and Dad would write about things they find important which I do not.”

“Someone who likes coming to my family get-togethers.”

Parents of boys want…

“As I know my child, he would like a girl who is medium height, weighs less than 100 lbs, wears short skirts and high heels, and has a beautiful smile.”

“Someone who has their own goals in life and wants to share those goals with him.”

“She would be pretty, but not too concerned about looks.”

“She would dress modestly and behave with respect.”

“Good grades.” (x2)

“No tattoos.”

“Loves kids.”


“Respectful and submissive to his authority.”

“Wants children and loves to be with family.”

“Goes to the gym.”

“Funny” / “Sense of humor” (x3)

“Christian.” (x3)

“Loves cooking.”

“Independent.” (x2)

Parents of girls want…

“She would like someone who is on Facebook or texts all day. Not me.”

“Someone that sweeps her off her feet.”

“Someone who will love her as much as I do.”

“Someone who loves family and the in-laws.”

“Basically, she’s looking for her own personal Justin Bieber.”

“Doesn’t abuse his body or mind with drugs, alcohol, or pornographic things.”

“Someone who would wait until after marriage to be physically intimate.”

“Speaks intelligently – doesn’t cuss or use words to hurt others.”

“Is kind to the elderly, weak, and animals.”

“Would not be afraid to look others in the eyes, shake their hands, and keep his word.”

“Smart” / “Intelligent” (x5)

“Good sense of humor.” (x4)

“Emotionally available.”

“She’s looking for her ‘Jacob’.”

“Athletic.” (x3)

“Loves music.”

“Honest.” (x3)


“Physically, we hope he’s a healthy guy.”


“Able to financially support her and their family.”

“I wouldn’t care what he looked like as long as he loved my daughter unconditionally.”

“Family oriented.”

“Have a bright future.”

“Doesn’t smoke or drink.”

“Hard working.”

“Self reliant.”

“Able to communicate both verbally and by actions.”

Are these the answers you would have expected? I’m filing these away in their freshmen time capsules. In a handful of years, a month before graduating, these kids will open up their envelope of ninth grade work and find, among other treasures, this. I hope some of their answers change before they’re eighteen.


Would you like to come in, out of the rest of the world?

For long moments after the bell had rung, I sat behind my desk with the door locked and pulled tight. I sat behind the door, behind my desk, behind my barrier of half-full cups. (I buy myself drinks as a coping mechanism. I get this from my mother.) I sat and I closed my eyes and I let one expectant minute slip past, and then another. But then, as I was bound to do, I got up, walked to the door, and allowed the waiting herd in. And then the bell rang, pulsating and loud, and class started. Wednesday went back to normal.

Some days, it’s like that.

I recall exactly what as a child I thought adulthood had in store for me. The dream resurfaces easily. In it, I live in a smallish house, a house with a finished attic, and have three children, two boys and a girl. I cook simple things for breakfast: oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, wheat toast with cream cheese and jam. I comb the boys’ hair to the side and cuff their pant legs. I french braid the girl’s and tuck the wispies back behind her ears. I have a bin under the bathroom sink designated for skinned knees. In my stolen time, at night before bed, I read books. I write.

At some point, time began to move faster. Life became a to-do list. Check. Check. Check.

Is this what my mid-twenties is about? Caring too much about things that don’t matter?

I spent tonight in glorious fashion. I curled up with The Smiths and a cherry limeade and alternated between surfing the internet and reading Julia Alvarez. I felt snug in my worn college sweats and cozy by the single bulb of a lamp.

I guess what I’m trying to scratch at is the knowledge (not the realization, because, let’s face it, this is the story of my life) that I need to do more of the things I enjoy and can feel stretching and warming my soul, and less worrying and hustling and bustling.

I wish I were an old woman. I wish I had more answers.