Ever thought what it would be like to return to high school? My husband and I discovered free language classes in our city but there was a catch. We’d be returning to high school and taking classes with teenagers. If we didn’t mind this, we were told, we’d have a free school year of just about any language (except French, the one most useful to us living in Canada – go figure). We chose Spanish. This was four years ago. Hubby and I did 10th, 11th and 12th grade Spanish. We sat through classes with quiet teenagers, loud and disruptive teenagers, emotional teenagers, but it wasn’t too bad (except for the one time in a fit of temper, I told the class clown to just SHUT UP. I’d never experienced a student who made it their mission to disrupt a class and harass a teacher.)
The first few Saturday mornings of class, hubby and I felt self-conscious as most of the other adults probably did, but we eventually made friends through the years, losing some along the way who dropped out to pursue other things or attend to other commitments. After Grade 12, my hubby decided not to continue. He’d had enough of waking up early Saturday mornings, homework assignments, projects and studying. I, along with some of the other adults, chose to take Grade 12 again. Every Saturday morning, I’d leave my slumbering family and cozy house to brave winter’s icy breath. I’d arrive at class with the unsettled feeling of guilt and misgiving. How could I be so selfish to pursue this when there was so much laundry to be done, the house to clean, and what about my writing which suffered due to this extra commitment?
Every day I sat in the same seat, second row beside my friend Noel. Hubby and I met Noel when we first started and there was always this friendly competition between us. He could speak (frequent trips to Cuba) and I could read and write. “Remember I don’t have children,” Noel would remind me when I lamented that I couldn’t take trips to Cuba. “Remember I studied Spanish in Jamaica,” I’d remind Noel when I got another high test mark. Yet, a malaise came over me this past year. The lack of sunlight and never ending winter, the demands of every day life and the commitments I’d made drained me of energy and motivation. “I can’t come to another class,” I’d say every single Saturday morning to Noel. “You can do it,” he’d say every time and he watched while I slashed the date from the school calendar to countdown toward the end. “Only twenty more classes left.” Once my eyes filled with tears. “I love this teacher and this language but I shouldn’t be here. What am I doing here?” “Nineteen more classes left and you’re acing this. You can do this with your eyes closed. You can’t quit now. You’re halfway there.”
Off he went to Cuba and came back tanned. “You’re so lucky,” I moaned. We shared bits and pieces of our lives. Guaranteed he’d tease me a bit and make me laugh.
I won’t return next year. Noel says I should because I’d come so far. Maybe but most likely not. It’s time for me to attend to other commitments like my writing. But now and then I think of Noel because I never would have made it through the year without him. His encouragement was what made me stick it out when it would’ve been easier to quit. “You did it,” he said last class and I wondered if he knew how much I credited him with that.