Midnight Musings: A community of guardian angels

 

REPORTER FILE PHOTO |Jo Ann Kirkland

REPORTER FILE PHOTO |Jo Ann Kirkland

When I first starting writing a column for this newspaper, a wise editor and writer suggested that I not use peoples’ names. If there’s no name, it makes it more universal; the reader may subconsciously insert their own husband/child/dog’s name instead of getting a mental image of my kid.

Good advice. But not this time.

If you’re not in the mood for a slightly schmaltzy column from the mother of a graduating senior and soon-to-be empty nester, perhaps you should move along to the letters next door, or even better, “Around the Island.”

According to an African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This column is a thank you to all the villagers who helped raise our son.

The first time we lived here,  Quinn was in fifth grade. He only went to Shelter Island School until mid-October. On his last day, his classmates made a huge good-bye card for him. His teacher said it was spearheaded by the girl who would be his prom date this year.

We still had our house in Florida; that was where we lived for most of the year, but we were New Yorkers at heart, born and bred here in the long cold winters and rainy springs. We never quite felt at home in all that sunshine and “the land of alligators and respirators.”

We left the Island on the day of the 5K, just as it was ending. As I checked our mail at the Heights post office one more time, I could hear the shouts and cheers all the way from Crescent Beach. I felt like some piece of me was tearing away as I drove down the hill to North Ferry. My husband and I promised each other that we’d figure out a way to get back here.

Back in Florida, fifth grade included a teacher desperate to retire and long, rambling one-story buildings – schools are supposed to be made of brick, aren’t they?

If we had stayed in Florida, he would’ve attended a middle school of 1,200 kids. An easy decision, then.

Twelve hundred kids vs. 260 —  even if his class was the biggest class in the history of the Shelter Island School.

The next summer, we returned to the Island, this time for good. From  his first day of sixth grade, we saw guardian angels all over the school. Nurse Mary, perhaps one of his smallest angels, introduced him to all of his teachers and assured him that if he ever needed anything to drop by her office. To this day, her office must have a revolving door for all the kids who seek her out during the day for different maladies, real and imagined.

Ginny Gibbs —  “Math Gibbs” and the Queen of Disney — watched over him and his classmates throughout middle school. She told us that he came to her early on, confessing that “math wasn’t his best subject.” He proved himself wrong every year, but maybe because he finally had math teachers who knew how to teach.

When we heard chemistry and physics teacher Ann Marie Galasso was retiring at the end of this year, we had the same reaction we did when the news hit that Dr. Michael Hynes was leaving: at least they were there until our son graduated.

Stepping outside the boundaries of a school superintendent, Dr. Hynes not only learned every kid’s name, but who they were.

He replaced the shadow figures who roamed the halls or hid in their offices, biding their time until retirement.

When our son was applying to colleges, he asked Dr. Hynes to write a recommendation; he seemed genuinely flattered and wrote it immediately.

One day after school, I was in his office talking to Jacki Dunning, the always cheerful gatekeeper, a mom who keeps track of every kid as if they were members of her own family. A second-grade boy and his teacher came in asking for Dr. Hynes. He wanted to show him a three sentence essay he’d written on why school should be seven days a week. Neatly printed on wide, blue-lined paper, he drove his point home with “It’s good to be in school.” How many superintendents would or could take the time to listen to a small boy read something he was so proud of?

A thank you to our community members, Chris Lewis, Marilynn Pysher, Lisa Goody, Rebecca Mundy, Chief Jim Read, the hardworking PTSA members and ladies at the library and all the moms and dads.

Though our kids may not know it ­— or like it — someone is always watching out for them.

Father Peter, Reverend Anne and Father Joel, you taught a Catholic boy that it didn’t matter what religion he was, he’d be welcome anywhere.

Meghan Lang and Jimbo Theinert, our kids were so lucky to have you as their class advisors. If you two hadn’t stepped up in 11th grade, organized and worked countless fundraisers, the prom would’ve been in somebody’s basement. Instead of a senior trip to Boston they would have gon to Splish Splash in Riverhead.

And finally to the Class of 2014: you made a shy boy feel welcome at your school from the very first day and urged him on all through high school.

Shine on, Quinn, Matt BC, Charlie, Carter, Erin, Matthew, Tom, Drew, Spencer, Christian, Brianna, Macklin, MeMe, Libby, KeriAnn, Nathan, Matt, Thomas, Logan, Bre, Abbie, Annie, Annamarie, Taylor and Riley.

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