Chemistry Flashbacks & an Aging Realization
On the way home yesterday from a debate tournament, McKenna worked on her Chemistry homework--mostly making indecipherable markings on a page with such gobbledygook as "2Na + Cl2 = 2NaCl" and "NaCl + H20 ------- H2O + Na1 + Cl1." In a tone that I would have never muttered at 16-years-old, she said, "I like doing equations. They're really sort of fun."
I was tempted to roll my eyes and mutter under my breath in disgust (okay, I'll admit it...I actually did those things); how anyone that had my blood running through them could enjoy any chemical calculations was a bit bewildering to me. (Granted, McKenna can write a spot-on essay that makes her teachers literally giddy, and she stays up late at night reading...so I do know that she's my child.)
To say I did not like Chemistry would be an understatement. The only bigger understatement would be that I disliked Algebra even more than Chemistry. I sailed through my English and History classes in high school, but the consistent Cs in those pesky math and science classes kept me out of the honor society.
So, it was an interesting experience to see McKenna actually, sorta, enjoying her Chemistry homework. And it made me think of someone I hadn't thought of in years.
Mrs. Coley, my high school Chemistry teacher, was the epitome of "eccentric." I remember her wearing the same shirt and skirt every other day, and when you arrived in her class you better get ready to get to work. Because this woman talked chemistry and wrote equations at lightning speed. Once she got going, there was no stopping her. And she didn't even let the chalkboard get in her way.
She would get to writing equations on the board and, when she ran out of chalkboard, she'd just keep on writing on the wall. I remember one class period when she literally had circled the room and written calculations in a straight line all the way around the wall and back to to the original chalkboard.
She also had the habit of sticking her chalk in her hair and then forgetting where it was. And I also remember her telling story upon story one month about the squirrels that had taken up residence in her house.
Despite her eccentricities, in a way she was charming. Students liked her (although that could be because you could get her out of administering a test if you could distract her by talking about those darn squirrels). And students apparently learned chemistry skills from her. (Except for me, of course.) People claimed she was a good teacher.
I hadn't really thought of Mrs. Coley in a long time--not until McKenna's homework reminded me of her. And once I got to thinking about her, I began wondering something.
I wonder: How old was Mrs. Coley when she taught me? My teenage mind imagined her as old...but old is a bit of a relative term to high school juniors. Old could be eighty, but it could just assuredly be 35.
There's a distinct possibility, in fact, that I'm the same age now as she was then.
And there's a distinct possibly that I'm the same age now as all of those old teachers I once had teaching me.
And I'm reminded more and more that I'm not as young as I used to be.
I get this realization when I begin talking to my students (who are mostly 20 to 22-years-old) as if they're my peers and then realize that I could, conceivably, be their mother. Or when those same students sorta look at me humorously when I tell them I have a Facebook page. Or when I play "Sharks and Minnows" with the youth group at church, and then pay for it the next day with aching legs (ditto with trying to show Delaney's friends that I can still do the splits).
I can still vividly recall those days in high school Chemistry class as if they're yesterday; and, on the inside, I still feel like I'm in my 20s. But, nope, the reality is that I'm 40.
My Mom tells me that life just keeps getting better. That when you hit 40, you feel pretty good, but that 50 is really good and that 60 is even better.
Back in the days when I thought Mrs. Coley was old, I would have never believed that. I would have thought that nothing could be better than the 18 that was just around the corner, or the 21 that wasn't too far away.
Now, I think Mom's right. I think that each year has the potential to be better and better.
(As long as the girls' friends keep telling me I'm cool for playing Sharks and Minnows with them. And as long as I don't start sticking chalk into my hair. Then I may have to start worrying.)