Dec. 20, 2018
New Orleans, Louisiana
I tried to let my dog Scout out, but he wouldn’t go, because it was raining and he’s grumpy about weather. I got in the car and decided to drive down Canal St. to get to the Irish Channel instead of the highway. It was the last day before winter break at the school where I taught sixth grade English for two years, where I now go in about three to four days a week to sub. It’s a Title I K-8 charter school, and today was an annual fundraiser where donations help provide a new pair of pajamas for all of the kids in grades from Pre-K to fourth grade.
When I got there, I found my friend/former co-worker Val, who teaches sixth grade math, and she followed me as I beelined to the coffee. We went to the cafeteria, where the kindergarteners were already eating lunch, decked out in pajamas. Littler kids parrot each other, which means that when one 5-year-old jumped up to yell, “I miss you Ms. Kantor!” five other kids did too, and started showing off their pajamas.
My task for the day was to finish assessments that identified students who may need further accommodations. I grabbed the stack of tests from the office and went up into the third floor break room, then went into fourth grade math and found the first student on my list to test. The scene was beautiful — all the 9- and 10-year-olds in bright footy unicorn pajamas and matching giraffe sets and Pikachu onesies and lots of those green and red frosted cookies from Walmart.
I tested her and ate a sugar cookie, drank more coffee, responded to an email, and checked the weather. Rain? I went downstairs when the third and fourth graders went to lunch and grabbed school lunch—chicken nuggets and steamed broccoli.
I tested two more students when I got upstairs, and only those two because they were in the room for students not allowed to go to the Christmas party. Everyone else was downstairs for a sing-along. I entered the cafeteria right as second grade ended their performance of “Let It Snow” and the full dance party began. I used to teach sixth graders which I loved because they are at such an odd age and weird and funny and insightful and rowdy, but the little kids are something else entirely.
At the end of the day I went into my favorite fourth grade homeroom and did one more test and ate half a slice of Domino’s.
Before the busses rolled I stayed in the cafeteria and said goodbye to a few of my old students before break. Given the right resources they could take over the world. I ran to my car in the rain and drove to a store a few blocks down for presents — bath salts, a hot sauce print, and a coozie — for the friend I’m spending Christmas with in South Carolina.
Val called me and said to come back to school so she could give me a Christmas present from her and our other friend. They were leaving immediately to begin the drive up north to Maryland and then Massachusetts. I drove back and waited outside. It was a bottle of wine named after my neighborhood that they’d bought the night before in the French Quarter.
The ride home was sloppy and slow. Rain is different in New Orleans. It fills up the potholes and stripped-away concrete in the streets and makes an already rough commute sluggish. In the summer, it rains almost every afternoon, as if the city itself hits a breaking point right around 2 p.m. — “all right, it’s just too hot” — and gives up and breaks down in storms. The rain is a little lighter and colder in the winter, and a little less angry. It’s more resigned. I got home and tried to convince Scout to go pee outside, but he refused. I pulled on leggings and curled up in bed to nap for 30 minutes before the gym.
At the gym, I wasted time on the elliptical. “The Incredibles” was on. Then I went into the tiny weight room and listened to the new Kaytranada song four times in a row while doing planks and Russian twists and also listened to “Halftime,” the Ying Yang Twins song they play at the Superdome and sports bars after Saints wins. It makes me remember being at Tracey’s on the night of the NFC divisional against the Vikings last year, taking a whiskey shot right when the Saints scored to make in 24-23. There was silence in the standing-room-only crowd as Stefon Diggs scored the game-winning touchdown for the Vikings. I hoped this year I’d remember it in the context of a Super Bowl appearance.
I got home from the gym a little before my copy-editing shift started. I switched a load of laundry, and responded to texts while I waited for stories to come in. A friend in Chicago needed to know whether I would recommend “The Christmas Prince” or “The Princess Switch;” a friend in New York sent me a link to an article about Morocco. Around 10 p.m I started considering what in the world I should eat. I opted for a goat cheese and chicken quesadilla from the place down the street, eaten at almost 11 p.m., a very normal dinner time. Then I went to sleep with the dog aggressively curled up into my chest.