I cannot pretend that this is a well-written post, but it’s written.
Lentil and I had been on the go, or so it seems, for the better part of the last week. Mister dropped us off at the airport last Sunday (now almost two weeks ago_ so that we could catch her first flight on an airplane. First class, no less.
We flew to Orange County for a conference sponsored by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum that four teachers, including me, organized for other teachers. I’ve done a couple of conferences with the USHMM, including its Belfer Conference for Teachers, but I did not do the museum’s next step, its fellowship, because we were working on getting pregnant. I was surprised and honored to be asked to help with the Belfer Next Step, the Orange County conference (only two of the teachers asked to organize the BNS, which are regional, are not fellows).
We started planning the conference in December, 2007. I wasn’t pregnant, but by the next year, when we had the second planning meeting, I’d had Lentil. The conference was planned, in large part, via email and the occasional phone call.
My mother drove down from the Sierras (wow!) so that she could watch Lentil while I was at the conference. It all went smoothly, even with the three of us sharing a dorm room. I’d get up with Lentil, nurse her, walk two blocks to the center (thank you to Chapman University for hosting) and be with my group. My mom would show up around lunch and we’d eat together. She’d come back for dinner. On the last day, I walked around with Lentil while my mother listened to a Holocaust survivor’s story as she’d never heard one tell a story before. I thought it was an important event, and although all the stories are different, I’ve seen several speakers. My mother won’t watch Holocaust movies; this was a moving experience for her. He told his story, wept a little, laughed, and showed that he survived even when the odds suggested he shouldn’t have. (Many survivor stories are punctuated with moments in which the coin could have flipped oh, so easily.)
I haven’t been doing much of my Holocaust curriculum work because I’ve been busy — planning for Lentil, having Lentil. The conference got me back on my feet, so to speak. Reading, watching movies. Holocaust/genocide educators are an interesting bunch because they are passionate people and passtionate about a topic that many think is bleak. It can be. But there is great hope that in teaching Holocaust curriculum, we investigate our past and help develop a better future. (That sounds like a tag line; I apologize.) We’re like band geeks but it’s oh, so much weirder to be a genocide geek. Yes, I know that sounds bad, but if you get people talking about books or methodology or whatever, it’s hard to break up the conversation. Thus, geek.
I took a leave of absence next year (well, I was granted a leave, which surprised me given I’d taken half this year off) to be with Lentil. I cannot fathom teaching full time, or even part time, and managing my paper load and student needs with my child. I am lucky that my husband and I are in agreement that being home is what is best for Lentil. But, what the conference reinforced is how much I love working with other teachers. There is something in that that seems manageable while raising a child. That’s another topic for rumination.
Lentil traversed these days in the able hands of my mother and with great dignity and grace. She looked at the sky and trees, touched grass, napped with her grandmother, and brought much joy into my day. The three of us made the long drive home from Orange County on Wednesday afternoon. It took a long time, punctuated by stops in dry winds along I-5.
Papa couldn’t have been happier to see such haggard creatures. Phew! My welcome gift? My car was broken into that night, which meant Lentil and I were stuck at home for the next couple of days. After our big trip, that wasn’t such a bad thing.