Tuesday, January 31, 2006

sofa memories

Today at school we had tacos for lunch. They were fantastic, better than I remember them being. Maybe I'm just so grateful for a good cafeteria again. There were many things I loved about Douglass, but the cafeteria food was not one of them. It kept everyone lean and mean. At lunch time at Douglass, the kids congregated in the hall outside the cafeteria, not eating (though almost all were on free/reduced lunch), intimidating and playing everybody who pushed through the crowd. It was a prime time for 8th ward 9th ward fights. It was an ordeal every day, which is one reason, besides the quality of the food, that I didn't eat in the cafeteria very often. I don't know if the kids didn't eat because the food was dreck or if the food was dreck because they didn't eat and so the cafeteria ladies didn't care, or if it was another subtle way the system dissed the poor.
Teachers got double helpings of it. The dreck, I mean.
But Mandeville High has a great cafeteria, and I'm glad. I'm a little infamous in the teacher's lounge for loving the lunch. This afternoon after school I washed the dishes in my kitchen and see it's almost only cups and glasses and cat dishes. No pots. No measuring cups. Once again, I'm taking my main meal at school. (But I'm definitely keeping up with my high blood pressure medicine.)
The two senior classes are writing essays now, and it's fun. I was trying to help them come up with ideas for subjects today and I said "sofas" is a good subject to essay. They laughed of course. I reminded them about the memories associated with the living room sofas, etc., and then, in the middle of me saying these things, I remembered that there's a girl in one of the classes (more than one kid, but this one sticks out in my mind because she wrote something to me about the state of her psyche and emotions these days, which isn't calm) who lived in Chalmette and I realized that the sofa she grew up on was gone and I wanted to stop myself. In fact, I did, sort of, by telling them to imagine their sofas gone, but I didn't go too far with it because I feared it was too much for the one girl. After, I took her out in the hall and we had a cry together and I told her what had occurred to me while I was suggesting the essay subject, and she told me that she's going to write her story (we're going to probably write two essays a week until school is over), and she was smiling about it. So it was good. But it humbled me, and it, she, keeps me conscious and real.
One more thing is that every time I see African-American students in the hall I just want to hug them, even if they're not from New Orleans. I miss the African-American community. It would be a travesty (though that suggests blame but, really, who's to blame?) if New Orleans lost that community. I miss them so much. Before when I was at Mandeville I didn't understand about the community. They were all just Mandeville kids. But at Douglass I learned about their separate soul. Assimilation is not complete. And it makes me think about everybody else, and how assimilation is probably not complete for any of us. We just try to make it be. In the end, we all have our separate connections to our cultures. Mine was a father whose family was (and spoke) Croatian and how can that not have informed my life? Or my mother whose mother was from Scotland. How can her culture not have informed my life? I wonder, if everyone had the same skin color, would everyone appear to assimilate more completely (even though it could only be on the surface)?
I love this world.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Cassandra said...

I'll second you about the food at MHS... seriously! Super Salad day still brings a smile to my face. However, NOTHING beats Chicken Nugget day and how we would stand in line for almost our entire lunch period just to eat the nuggets and then hear the bell ring 2 minutes after we got our plates.

8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Melanie -

Thanks more than you know for coming back to MHS, even for a brief moment. Your refreshing attitude (both sweet & sour - each can be refreshing!)& incredible enthusiam for the students is a marvel. Every child fortunate to have your class comes to class with their "A" game even if they don't know it!

Again, thank you for being here, for being you! If only every school had a Plesh!

8:46 PM  

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