It has been almost two years since I taught my last adult education class. When I first retired, I got rid of all sorts of paper. But I tired of it after a while and let those boxes in the furnace room sit there for a later date.
Today was one of those "later dates." It is cold and windy and I have no reason to go anywhere. Walking into the furnace room with the B and W furnace inspector on his annual inspection this noon reminded me that there was still plenty to purge.
I spent 45 minutes going through two boxes. Ten blue plan books are now in the recyclable container. An armful of colored folders with student goals, tests and permission slips are gone. Purchase order records from ten years ago--no need for them any more. I have made progress in purging; there are several more boxes left for another day.
I kept essays and notes that students wrote--for now at least. I kept a few folders of students who are still my Facebook Friends. So many students--so many names--and many I don't remember any more. Some, however, I will never forget!
A stack of photos of Hope Rescue Mission students from the early 1990s was hidden in one folder. Fortunately there are names on the back of the photos. I remember each one of those students , but their names may have been hard to recall. I'll bring the photos in to Hope Ministries when I next volunteer and maybe someone will recognize them. I have wondered how they have survived over the years. Homeless shelters can have revolving doors.
I also found a four page journal recording classes at the Mission in July 1995. This is why keeping a journal or a blog is worth doing--the memory is weak and those memories are treasures or are they best forgotten? There was the student who kept the cash from his SSI check in his shoe or the one who came in to wish my son a happy birthday, thus reminding me that it was his birthday too or the young couple who met in class as an excuse to get in a little affection because there was no other place they could get together--I remember it all clearly as I read about it again.
I've been reading several novels by Patrick Modiano, the 2014 Nobel Prize winner in literature. They are very mysterious, haunting books with a repeated them of memory and forgetting. The purging brings back so many memories of faces and feelings. I look over these files and can hardly believe that 20 years of my life were so involved in an undertaking with so many frustrations and challenges, but also occasional rewards. .
Recently our financial advisor gave Jim and me the usual sermon about how no one will say at your funeral how hard you worked and how much money you made. He had in mind particularly the legacy we leave of time with our children and grandchildren. I am glad to be able to spend more time with them. So we didn't correct him, but I know that for both Jim and me, part of our legacy has been our work--our students--whether they were struggling to do basic math and reading and writing, or whether they were PhD candidates. I don't regret those years of work. But I also don't regret retiring!