It is a fine day for a cookout, this Father’s Day. It is hot enough that most of the younger folk are wearing shorts and T-shirts, revealing traces of recent sunburn and the random bruises and scratches of youth. This one has a strawberry from trying to steal third base, that one a burn from a dirt-bike muffler. Most of the boys have brought their girlfriends — some faces are familiar, others fresh and wide-eyed and eager to make a good impression. They pay special attention to the toddlers, trying to make them giggle, making over their tiny sundresses and overalls with grand gestures and exaggerated praise, as if the toddlers had put a lot of thought and care into what they were going to wear today.
My weekdays begin at 5 a.m. I have time to drink coffee with my husband, thank him for making my lunch, make myself presentable and read, pray, and meditate. I also clean out the cat’s litter box, which is perhaps as important as anything in preparing me for the harsh truths of my students’ lives. I am three months into my 16th year of teaching public high school.