Every week I submit a piece of writing to the Mendocino County Observer, a weekly paper that circulates throughout Mendocino County. This is this week's piece.
The Queen of Tarts
Any student who ever went through the sixth grade with me, will remember [I am certain] that we started out by reading Tuck Everlasting, where we encountered, examined, discussed and reflected on the cycle of life. We shared in Winnie Foster’s amazement, as Tuck explained how his family had fallen off that circle of life, being neither able to move forward or get off. In the carnival that comprises life, the ferris wheel never stops.
We said farewell to Jamal Andrews last Saturday, and now we must bid Pam Cornell good-bye also, forever etched in my heart as the Queen of Tarts. This was only one of the more colorful characters that Pam assumed over the many Halloween Carnivals, Renaissance Faires, Dime-a-Dip nights, Wrestling, Spanish Club, Junior Class, et al Nights, over which she presided. You know she didn’t get paid to be there for those nights. She was just that kind of gal.
When I think of Pam, I think of the little office that was just past the double refrigerator, the one we always stuffed all the necessary accompaniments to about a half-dozen or so annual middle school dances. We went to Pam to store all of the supplies coming in for the field trips to Yosemite, in the early years, and Richardson Grove in the last five or so. She was just that kind of gal.
When I think of Pam, I think of that area on the other side of her desk, where we used to pile up the lugs of apples and oranges we were taking on field trips, because Paul and I always had about 55 or so of our students on these expeditions, and about one parent for every five students. We went to Pam when a kid had accidentally ended up with raspberry jelly all over the front of her new hoodie, and we knew Pam had the only washer and dryer on campus, and that she would find time to whisk it through. She was just that kind of gal.
When I think about Pam, I think about her heart of gold, and all the time she had to make that heart shine for kids. She would do anything for the kids, and for those who were looking out for the kids too. We were always bugging her about using the MPR for electives, Odyssey of the Mind, play practices, dances, assemblies, and all of the rest. She worked with us, not against us. She was just that kind of a gal.
I will miss Pam, as will everyone who came into contact with her. She was always looking out for the other guy, because, you know, she was just that kind of gal.
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Annie and I are frequently asked about Pauline, my mom, who recently moved off of the mountain, down to Willits. She now resides at Redwood Meadows, the senior housing complex, and is settling in very nicely, thank you for asking. She would be delighted to hear from friends, if you should feel inclined to drop her a line. Her address is 1475 Baechtel Road, Apt. i-5, Willits, Ca 95490.
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I attended Jamal Andrews’ memorial with Annie, and our three sons. We had the foresight to convene at the Fat Quail, and walk over from there to Harwood Hall. I am flummoxed by the number of people who set aside their normal Saturday agendas, to share in the celebration of Jamal’s life. Listening to the music, watching the slide show (that was me as Santa, in one of those early Wellspring pictures) and hearing the anecdotes that people shared, was very powerful.
I cannot adequately describe the range of emotions, that predominated the occasion. However, there is one view that was expressed that I do want to address. It was suggested that anger not be included in those range of emotions, upon which we should focus; instead, we should be zeroing in on the joy that Jamal exuded. I was unclear as to whether or not that referred to the memorial itself, in which case, I absolutely agree, or if that dispensation of anger should extend beyond, in which case, I must respectfully disagree.
My anger is valid; I will not desist. Anger is a normal human reaction to life’s injustices. How I choose to channel my anger is the key. Attending every court appearance of Jamal’s assailant, is one civilized method of expressing my anger. I will not set my anger aside; I will not forget.