Today I attempted to clean our office. On Friday I carried home boxes and bags filled with books and binders that I'd need this summer to revamp a few units I teach or books that I'd taken to school with me because I had a specific student in mind who might like to read Good Poems put together by Garrison Keilor or Black Boy by Richard Wright or Winter Morning Walks by Ted Kooser. While I shelved and re-shelved books, I listened to the first listen preview from NPR of Death Cab for Cutie's new album: Codes and Keys. The NPR reviewer wrote of this new album that it has a more mature sound---and rightfully so, because it's been 11 years since they released their first album. The lead singer is now sober and married---so the music has changed. As I listened to the album and cleaned the office I couldn't help but think about how much I've changed.
I've listened to Death Cab since I was 16. An older boy I liked gave me my first Death Cab album. I can't remember which boy it was---there were a group of boys who were all friends. I had not-so-secret crushes on four of them---all were free-spirited, intellectual, musically talented, sincere, crazy and had good taste in music. I kissed one of them on a back porch while summer mosquitos and moths banged their tiny insect bodies against the porch light. We had just spent the evening watching some Monty Python movie and listening to Simon and Garfunkel for hours. The boy I kissed was in college and I was in high school; he would leave CD's beneath my windshield wiper while I was in school. The other boy was my best friend's brother. He was off limits and had a girlfriend for most of the time I knew him. But his sweet voice and guitar serenading made me think crazy things for too many years. The third boy was also in college. I chose to attend UNK partly because of him. When he came home on the weekends, we spent time drinking coffee at a local coffee shop which name slips me now, walking or listening to music. The last memory I have with him was on the slides at Glur Park late one night. We sat there shivering from the summer cold, crying because we couldn't be together. I had a boyfriend and wasn't ready to let him go. Another of the boys was mad for one of my best friends---this made him off limits as well. For most of our friendship, I saw him as a brother. We drove to a concert together once in his blue van and he let me put my bare feet on the dash while we listened to Death Cab for Cutie on HWY 30. We had many memories like this, but perhaps the best was one late night out at Goedekon's Lake in his family's lakeside trailer. We were smoking Clove cigarettes and playing guitar. I worked up the courage to play and sing a song I wrote--shaking the whole time. When I finished, my face red, hands trembling---he smiled and told me it was beautiful. He probably doesn't remember something so seemingly insignificant, but I do.
As I moved books around from shelf to shelf organizing them from contemporary literature, to classics, to poetry, to education, to faith based books--I ran across three old copies of the Carillon--UNK's Sigma Tau Delta English Honorary Society's publication of student work. I read through my poetry that was published in each volume from 2006-2008. It hasn't been that long--but as I leafed through the pages, it felt like ages ago when my dream was not to be a teacher---but a writer who was married to one of those four crazy boys. I sat for awhile on the hardwood floors with books in hand thinking back to the memories above and my current life---a married teacher in a small town who desperately wants to be a mother. How different my life is now. It's tempting to want to give everything I have now up for the more carefree life I once had (and still at times desire)---but then my phone rings. It's my husband asking to check what kind of primer we have in our basement. He's at the hardware store buying paint, primer and sandpaper to refinish our kitchen cabinets. He's been working all morning on the kitchen. And then I think about how I happy I was last night to fall asleep in his arms---a teacher in a small town who desperately wants to be a mother in the arms of a hard working, sincere, passionate and funny guy and I know that I wouldn't trade this life for another.