I've been cleaning out Debbie's desk in the basement. It's where she would sit and do most of her planning for school. She had a lot of stuff down there. Early on after she passed I had looked at some of it to figure out what was there. I saw that were some things done by her students at Minnesota Waldorf School. I thought at the time it would be nice to send them to the students as they got close to their high school graduations. This spring I realized if I was going to do that I better get moving as this was the year they would graduate. Sometimes deadlines can provide me with inspiration.
At Waldorf schools the students don't use textbooks. They keep a main lesson book where they write and illustrate what they've learned. It's part of the Waldorf philosophy; it anchors what they've learned better and gives them practice with handwriting, composition and art. The completed main lesson books are beautiful. Debbie did a main lesson book for herself; she would do them as she planned her lessons. I pulled out her eight years of completed lesson books and sent them to the school so they can be used by the teacher who took on Debbie's new class and others.
After that, I didn't touch anything. This was the area of the house that was hers and hers alone. Nobody else used that desk. I have many memories of waking up in the night or early morning and wondering where Debbie was then finding her working at her desk. It's not like I had a feeling that I shouldn't disturb her area, but I just never felt like cleaning it out. Maybe subconsciously, I was avoiding it. But I had a deadline coming up, so I had to do it.
I went through all of her paperwork. I saved anything that her students had done and sent each of the ones who graduated from eighth grade with her an envelope filled with different things. I've heard back from some of them how much they appreciated getting that.
In one file drawer I found all the plays her class had done. In Waldorf, each class will do a play every year. Many times, I would write the first draft of the play for Debbie and she would do a final edit. Sometimes I would write from scratch, sometimes she would have another play to use as a base. The final play I helped with was in sixth grade. They did a Greek play - The Haunted House by Plautus. She had three translations and each was old, so the wording was sometimes a bit hard to follow. I updated the language and had to add three or four parts to fit the number of children in the class. I split one character into three and added a couple others giving them lines from other characters.
Then in the very back of that same drawer I found all of her medical files from when she had had miscarriages. I knew she carried that grief with her, but seeing those files brought it front and center in my mind. I was crying even before I found the last folder. That folder was all about the baby before Alicia. I knew that had been her most difficult one. She told me the baby had died, but I always had assumed it was a miscarriage. It turns out that the baby had been born dead at 20 weeks, so it was far enough along that she had ultrasound pictures. In the file, I found items from when he was born. There was a card with his footprints and a picture of him wrapped up in a baby blanket. She also had saved the baby blanket. By this point I was sobbing. I've decided that I'm going to put the blanket in the niche with Debbie's urn at the cemetery. It seems fitting. I am consoled by thinking of the joyous reunion Debbie had with her children in heaven.
There's still a bit of cleaning to do. But before I tell you about the last thing I cleaned I have to digress here so you'll understand what comes next. One of my favorite foods is a peanut butter and honey sandwich. We kept our bread in the freezer. At one point, I mentioned to Debbie that I didn't really like eating the crust piece on the ends of bread loaves. She told me I didn't have to; she could use them as bread crumbs when she was cooking. So, I stopped eating the crust pieces. Then a few months later I was in the doghouse because there were so many bags of bread in the freezer containing just the two crust pieces.
Ok, back to cleaning. Yesterday I noticed that on the top shelf of her bookshelf next to the desk there were a bunch of papers. They were mostly from miscellaneous classes she had taken. As I went through the papers on the bookshelf I also found about ten note books and legal pads with just two or three pages remaining. Not that it justified what I had done with the bread, but it did turn out that it was a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
It was good to share a laugh with Debbie again.
I was going to end this post with a short paragraph about cleaning, but as I was trying to figure out the words I found myself writing a haiku.
the desk is now clean
papers saved drawers emptied
Tim Kane's memories, musings and updates.