Friday, August 31, 2012

Sometimes It's Nice to Walk into Your Classroom and Find an Elephant

Hi friends, it's been awhile.

I guess I've been playing too hard these days because I came down with a gnarly summer cold that's made it difficult to do thinking activities, like writing complete. Sentences.

Somehow, though, my head-that-feels-like-a-lava-lamp was able to do just enough work to be ready for my first day of teaching yesterday.

I love the first day of school.

I love the excited butterflies in my stomach, the smell of new dry erase markers, running into old students and seminary friends around campus, meeting my new students, and finding surprise safari animals in my classroom.

Friends, meet Norman the normal elephant:

He was waiting for me on the podium in my first class yesterday, along with this introduction:

Norman's appearance was just so darn mysterious!  Had my new supervisor put him here?  Could she have possibly done this for all fifty of us in the composition department?  And what did she mean by 'I've heard you have recently become  'normal' too'?  Surely she knows that English teachers are never normal?—that they do things like, say, impersonate 'The Albino' from The Princess Bride for unsuspecting, nervous freshmen on the first day of class?

But who else could have introduced me to Norman the normal elephant?

Perhaps time would tell?

Underneath the card introducing Norman was this card:

After I was finished teaching my classes I tore it open and found this picture:

Along with these instructions:

Were there other faculty members doing this? I wondered. Was this some elaborate means of team-building?

. . .



Or maybe one of my friends was having a little fun with me?

I hoped Paul the Pensive Panda would have some answers. So I set out across campus toward the lounge where seminarian philosophers sit rubbing their chins and pensively discussing really electrifying things like qualia and epiphenomenalism.

Sure enough, Pensive Paul was waiting for me, along with another card labeled 'SJ.'

I sat on the maroon leather couch that has held so many brilliant thinkers before Pensive Paul and opened the envelope.  I found this picture:

And these instructions:

A hurdling, eschatology-discussing giraffe!

When my sister and I play the what-animals-do-our-family-members-look-like? game (a favorite pastime) we always decide a giraffe is my animal.  I've also been known to enjoy hurdling and a rousing discussion about eschatology—so surely this giraffe was my kindred spirit?!  I couldn't wait to meet him, so I headed across campus to the track.

About ten seconds into my trek I noticed that the leather straps on my shoes were slowly but surely sawing off my toes.  I was faced with a dilemma.  Should I continue on my path toward bloody toe-lessness?  Or join the ranks of the granola folk who come to my class every day without shoes, for no apparent reason?  I decided that toe-lessness was not an option, took off my shoes, and set off again.

I ran into one of my old student's sisters during my hunt.  She gladly agreed to help me document it. :)

And boy, going barefoot in public is fun.  Well, it's fun once you can silence your brain's regular reminders of every article you've ever read about tapeworms and viruses entering people through their feet.  Only then does it feel like being a kid all over again.

Walking barefoot on a track is one of my favorite things, along with rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Just kidding, I hate cats.

I found George the Galloping Giraffe!

With another picture inside the envelope:

And another clue:

George and I galloped to the library together where I put on my shoes, and headed straight for the upper east wing.

Ted the Translating Turtle!

He's reading Hebrew, go figure.

I opened the final card hoping it would reveal the creator of this little scavenger hunt, but there was no name.

Instead I found this picture:

And these instructions:

I walked down to the outdoor benches and looked around. . .and. . .there was nobody there.  Not my supervisor, not a friend.

And then a familiar face appeared from around the corner:  S, a friend from my Old Testament class two and a half years ago.

"You!"  I exclaimed.

"You!"  I exclaimed again.

I'm quite articulate in surprising situations.

"Yes, me!" he said.  And then we sat down and he explained.

"You're feeling more normal," he said.  (He'd read this blog post from a few weeks ago).

"I wanted to encourage you as you start a new semester feeling normal for the first time in years, so I gave you Norman the Normal Elephant to celebrate your newfound normal."

Suddenly it all made sense.

S runs the copy center on campus, so for the last two years I've seen him every week when I've gone to pick up my handouts for classes.  He's seen me on the days when getting out of bed for work was an enormous feat due to illness, and on the days my eyes were heavy with sorrow from life's blows, and on the days I confessed I was just faking it till I made it.

And now there are signs I'm heading back to 'normal' and he knows this is no small thing, so today, the first day of the semester, he gave me a new elephant friend to remind me of God's good gift of 'normal' this month.

New normal friends are the greatest, aren't they?

Almost as great as old friends.

© by scj


  1. I love this! What a great friend to encourage you! I want to give him a hug for doing this for you. :-)

    (And apparently you didn't get enough Okie in your Jackson blood--I'm one of those "crunchies" who can't stand to wear shoes. Yes, I'm the weirdo getting mail in the snow barefoot and/or when the pavement is hot enough to fry an egg.)

    ((hugs)) and congrats on your first day!

  2. Sharalyn,

    You know, my barefoot adventure may have reawakened my Okie blood....because now going shoeless regularly is mighty appealing....

    Love you!