Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Semester End

The term officially ends for me at 7 p.m. today. By that time, I will have submitted my grades, packed a box filled with exams, papers, notes and textbooks, and labled said box for shipping home. I'm in New York with my sister, her husband, and their new baby, and the grading has taken so much of my time with them that I'm ashamed. I came here to help them, but they have really helped me by giving me use of their dining room table, kitchen, coffee pot, wifi, and couch, and by supplying an adorable new nephew (with new baby smell) for me to cuddle and coo with at my leisure.

During all of this, of course, I have been sweating the approaching Big Conference and worrying about my marketability. I've secured interviews for the positions I was most interested in (how's that for serendipity?), and have celebrated each phone call with a little happy dance (even in the video store...I'm goofy like that). A good friend and neighbor is checking my mail daily for any paper-based communiques. I feel relatively good in general about things. My throat, though, has other ideas, and I've had to get a prescription for antibiotics to clear up this obnoxious little white spot on a tonsil (my sister, the pediatrician, gave me the medi-description of the condition, but all I know is white dot on tonsil).

Many, many years ago, I was booked for a tour of Greece over the Easter holiday. I was 15 and very excited. I had my passport. I had new clothes. I was ready to go. 2 weeks before we left, I was hospitalized with pneumonia. I had been sick, a cold I couldn't shake, and the end result was my release from the hospital the day before the tour group left. Of course, I didn't go on the trip; I was too weak for that kind of travel, and too young to say "insurance be damned!"

I've never left the country. I am sad now as I write this and I can't recall any memory that I've ever shared being more painful. How odd. It's strange that this hurts to write; it happened so long ago and seems very far away. But as I sit here, at this (stunningly beautiful) dining room table, looking out on a snowy NY landscape, I see what that illness cost me. The trip was a natural step for a reader like me; so long had I shared in new worlds in books, it seemed fitting that my first real journey away from home would be to a birthplace of some of the most enduring book worlds.

So I called for antibiotics; I can't miss the Big Conference and the possibility of new worlds that it presents. This cold feels like that cold so many years ago--unshakeable, penetrating, settling, and taking up permanent residence. In some ways, it's a fitting end to this semester which has run me ragged and shown me the benefit of setting limits; heaven knows that if I'd just listened to my mom all those years ago and rested instead of running, I'd have made that trip just fine.

Well, enough of that maudlin business. Back to the grading.