“She’s going to live with you?” my friend Amy squealed in disbelief. “Our new teacher is going to live in your house? Like, under the same roof, sharing the same kitchen and TV and bathroom and everything?”
“Well, we won’t share everything,” I replied. “She’ll kind of have her own place, ‘cause we’re putting her in the basement.”
Quickly I glanced around to make sure my mother hadn’t overheard. Just that morning she had been nagging me to quit telling everyone that my teacher was going to live in our basement.
“You make it sound like we’re locking Miss Jones in a dungeon with spiders and rats,” my mom had said. “It is a carpeted, painted, heated spare bedroom with its own private bathroom. And unless you want me to give her your bedroom, you’d better stop making it sound like we’re sticking your new teacher in a hole.”
Still, no matter how you put it, having my teacher live in my house was a bit weird. I still hadn’t quite wrapped my mind around the idea, but I was enjoying watching my friends’ reactions as I told them the news.
“How long is she staying?” Rachel asked.
I shrugged. “Not sure. Maybe all school year. Maybe just until she finds an apartment.”
“Have you met her, yet?” Todd asked.
I opened my mouth to answer then shut it tight when I remembered I wasn’t speaking to Todd. This was kind of tough considering I was in Todd’s living room and this was his family’s going-away party, but I was determined to keep up the silence. I gave Todd the cold shoulder until Andy, Rachel’s brother, repeated the question.
“Well?” Andy asked. “Have you met Miss Jones?”
“Not yet,” I replied cheerfully, as if there were nothing awkward going on at all. Todd gave me a hurt look, but I pretended not to notice.
“I still can’t believe Mrs. Dunn left us,” Amy sighed.
“No kidding!” I exclaimed. “How can you teach a bunch of kids for five years and then just up and abandon them?”
“Mrs. Dunn didn’t abandon us, Chrissy,” Rebekah broke in. “My dad said she had to take another job. Remember, we didn’t even know if our school was going to open again this year. Mrs. Dunn couldn’t risk being out of work. She didn’t have a choice.”
I knew that what Rebekah said was true, but it didn’t make me feel any better. Last year, when it had looked like our small Adventist church school might have to close its doors for good, we had banded together with the rest of our classmates to try and keep that from happening. And when our hard work and prayers paid off, and our school was saved, I figured life at Clarksfield SDA School would go back to normal.
I hadn’t planned on Mrs. Dunn leaving.
I also hadn’t planned on Todd and his whole family packing up and moving clear across the country.
Todd and I had been in the same grade our whole lives. Our mothers were best friends. Our older brothers were best friends. His big sister used to help me babysit my two little brothers. I could hardly remember a single birthday party, Christmas celebration, or Sabbath afternoon when our two families hadn’t been together. Now all of that was coming to an end.
It just wasn’t fair. This many things weren’t supposed to change all at once. Mrs. Dunn was gone. Todd and his family were moving. Plus there were all the changes going on at home, only one of which was the new teacher in the basement. How was one kid supposed to be able to handle all that?
While I had fallen deep into thought, the conversation in the room had turned. Todd was now enthusiastically discussing his newest favorite topic—the wonder and magnificence that was the great state of Oregon.
“Our new house in Oregon is only half an hour from the beach!” Todd gushed. “We’ll get to go there all the time! Plus, there are mountains in Oregon, so I can snowboard. And all my cousins live in Oregon, so I’ll have lots of people to hang out with already! And once we move, my mom’s going to let me get a pot bellied pig as a pet, and–”
I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to break my silence. “A pig?” I burst in. “You have to move to Oregon to get a pig? What, are pigs on the Ohio endangered species list or something? And you don’t even know how to snowboard! Have you forgotten that? All you can talk about lately is Oregon, Oregon, Oregon–”
“I think I’m going to get some more cake,” Rebekah burst in. “Come on, guys, who wants cake?” She clearly meant to change the subject, yet when the others all got up and headed into the kitchen, Todd and I stayed put.
We were quiet for a long time. I pulled at a loose thread on Todd’s couch.
Todd was the one who finally broke the silence. “You know I’d stay if I could, right?” he said.
“Stay?” I exclaimed. “I thought you wanted to move. I thought Oregon was like Disney World, a water park, and a ski resort all rolled into one!”
“Of course I don’t want to move,” said Todd. “I don’t want to leave my house and my school and my church and all my friends. But since I have to move, I might as well find something to be happy about, right?”
I felt my anger leak away, leaving me deflated like a balloon. How could I not have seen this before? Todd had always been the type to look on the bright side of everything. Of course he would focus on the good things about moving instead of the bad.
I could probably learn a lesson from him when it came to that sort of thing.
“So, anyway,” Todd went on, “I need someone to e-mail me and tell all about what’s going on in school and everything once I’m gone. None of the other kids are into writing like you are, so you’ll have to do it.”
“I’ll have to do it?” I repeated, eyebrows raised. “Yep!” Todd replied cheerfully. “And that’s an order!” I grinned and gave Todd a goofy salute. “Eye, eye, captain!” I said.
A burst of laughter from the kitchen reminded us both that there was still time to have some fun before we said our final good-byes. We reached the kitchen just in time to see Andy shoving an entire slice of chocolate cake into his mouth.
“I’ll give you ten bucks if you whistle right now!” Todd whooped.
“Ew, gross!” Amy exclaimed. She ducked behind Rebekah, using her as a shield in case the crumbs started flying.
I found myself wishing that time would stand still. If only I could freeze us all in this moment. If only I could stop things from changing and just hold on to this happy feeling. And then Andy did try to whistle, and I decided maybe this wasn’t the moment I wanted to stay in, after all.