“Potpourri” is a word I learned in 5th grade from Mrs. Reitz, my 5th and 6th grade teacher in Rowan Elementary School. It means a mixture of flower petals and spices put together in a cloth bag or in a bowl, placed in a room to make it smell better in a perfumed sort of way. But on her yellow bulletin board in dark blue letters, she taught us that it meant a mixture of things put together to make things better. And she told us that education was a kind of potpourri because it took many different things all put together to truly educate a child.
So, why am I writing about a goofy word like that? Well, thanks to Mrs. Reitz with her 1960’s polka-dotted old-lady dresses, her black and very staid cat-eye glasses that magnified her eyes, and her sensible shoes… I know that potpourri is the real secret to good writing. That is my excuse for why this blog is so full of a variety of excessively goofy and off-the-wall things. But it is not easy to do this every day, cherry-picking excessively goofy stuff out of my library, or out of my memory, or out of my own teaching experience, or even my nightly nightmares to post as another interesting bug in my butterfly-collection-style blog. Therefore today’s post will be one of those gawd-awful list posts that gives you fair warning about what my fevered old retired teacher brain is trying to cook up for the daily lesson.
- It is time to do the happy dance because my curse worked. For the 107th straight year the Chicago Cubs will not win another World Series. The Mets beat them in four straight games. I did it by switching my allegiance temporarily from the Cardinals to the Cubs. They have always been either my second or third favorite team in all of baseball. Yet, every time I want them to win something, they lose. Important regular season games, playoff games after the Cardinals are eliminated, or even happen-to-be-watching Saturday afternoon games between the Cubs and a team I hate like the San Francisco Giants, the Cubs always lose. (I know it is not nice to hate anybody, but really, what is baseball good for without teams to hate like the Giants, the Yankees, and the Reds? There have to be hated foes for the good guys to overcome.) Me rooting for the Cubs to win is a much more effective curse than anything Bill Sianis’ stupid pet billy goat could ever conjure.
- I watched a PBS Frontline documentary about the struggle in Congress to create immigration reform and the unsuccessful Herculean efforts of Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez from Chicago to build a consensus in the House of Representatives.
Immigration is important to me because my wife is an immigrant. So far, after 20 years of marriage she is still not a U.S. citizen. And with Donald Trump preaching venom against anchor babies, we could end up having my wife and kids deported to the Philippines simply because all the mean old white guys in Congress (and possibly Ben Carson) hate foreigners on principle and only allow them as means to high profits. This is an issue I care about because of my family and so many of my ESL students whom I love and treasure. And this is an issue that can potentially be combatted by cartoon. Trump and Congressman Trey Gowdy (with a football-shaped head) and basset-hound-looking Paul Ryan (and possibly Ben Carson) are all already cartoon characters who I would only have to draw realistically to make them into funny cartoons. They are also key players in this ring-around-the-rosy-all-fall-down debate.
- I also need to tell you more stories about wonderful teachers like Mrs. Reitz and Mrs. Mennenga. And about kids I have taught who lit my pants on fire (both figuratively and metaphorically), made my blood pressure rise, and touched my heart. It goes without saying that those stories are probably the most valuable things I have hoarded over the course of my career as a teacher. They will lose all their value if they go unshared before I die.
- I want to tell you about some of my cartoonist heroes. I haven’t blogged anything yet about Walt Kelly, the wonderful Disney veteran who created Pogo and Albert Alligator.
I plan to go on and on like this in bumblebee fashion, from flowering idea to blossoms of insight to posies of great beauty… flower, to flower, to flower… making potpourri.