Parents and grandparents come to school each day to eat lunch with students. We host a community open house that showcases student work and achievement. Our upper school students take part in a science fair, judged by a small army of volunteers who come in from the larger community. We hold a "read-in" where bigger kids read with younger kids. There are all sorts of silly dress up days -- crazy hats and crazy clothes and comfy clothes day. The culminating event, on Friday afternoon, is always a volleyball match between the 8th grade class and the faculty/staff.
Those of us on the faculty, scramble every year to put together a team. Most of us play volleyball once a year -- this game. We don't practice. We have no coach. What we have is experience, patience, and a gentle and durable affection for one another. I always joke that we should have team tee shirts that say, "Old Age and Treachery Will Overcome Youth and Skill."
On February 5, I will turn 59. I have creaky old, arthritic knees. These days, the knees function because I regularly visit the orthopedic surgeon's office for cortisone shots. I did that on Monday. Always, for a couple of days following the shots, my knees stiffen up and ache, and I worry that they may never bend again. I struggle up and down the stairs at school like a little old woman of 90. On Wednesday, I was seriously wondering if this year I would have to sit out the game, but by today, I was feeling pretty sure I could play -- at least for some of the game.
This morning, a coworker asked me if I was really planning to play. When I said, "Yes," she said, "But, what about your knees?" I told her that my knees were iffy, but that I was going to give it a shot. "Brave." "Gutsy." That was her assessment. "Nutty," is closer to the truth, I thought. What I said, though, was this:
"There is going to be a day, somewhere in my future, when I cannot play anymore. On that day, I will sit on the sidelines and cheer. Until then, I am going to play -- for as long as I possibly can."
And so I played. Made some good serves. No diving for balls. I do not hit the floor by choice. The knees don't bend much, so no digging the ball off the floor. And no jumping either. I am pretty sure the jump would be fine, but the landing? Probably not good. So... I take what I have; what I can do; and put it out there in front of 400 screaming kids -- across the net from a gang of determined 14 year olds, and I play for all I'm worth. I huff and puff and sweat. I have moments of triumph, and some purely embarrassing times. It is fun and exciting and affirming. I play.