There was a new private elementary school opening in Chantilly and they needed someone to get their art program off the ground. They wanted a part-time teacher to share with their sister school in Sterling. He interviewed in person with the vice-principal of the Sterling school and over the phone with the principal of the Chantilly school. It went very well with both and he was hired to work two days a week at one and three at the other.
The teachers and staff spent the week before the start of the school year making sure everything was ready when the students arrived. On the last day of that week, Maura had arranged for a team building “game show” battle between the two schools. Gregory finally got to put some of that useless trivia he had stored in his head to use. He buzzed in often and was seldom wrong, so the Chantilly school trounced the Sterling school soundly and was then challenged to a rematch the next year.
Gregory settled into the new routine of teaching art at one school and then another pretty quickly. The school in Sterling had 7th and 8th graders, but no textbooks, so Gregory had to be a little more creative with them. Luckily, he had plenty of other materials and resources to fill in the gaps. What he really could have used was a little enthusiasm from the students. They were sullen, quiet, and often uncooperative. He also had a classroom, which ended up being a burden rather than a blessing. He was “art-on-a-cart” at Chantilly and liked that much better.
There was one part of his new job at Clearbrook that Gregory didn’t like. He was expected to babysit the kids in After-School, because he wasn’t a “real” teacher. Most of the time it was okay, because he could take the kids outside, but the colder months proved more challenging. He did his best to come up with games or puzzles or projects for them to do while waiting for their parents to come pick them up. But sometimes it just pissed him off the way other teachers and the administrators treated him. Real teachers could leave early on snow days. Specialty teachers had to stay until the last child left. It sucked!
The classroom at Sterling was another bone of contention. When he was at the other school, it was used and left a mess. The new principal would yank his locked closet open and give away supplies that Gregory bought with his own money. And teachers would line their students up outside his door before the end of the previous class, so that he had to dash down to the hall just to use the bathroom between classes. When he had the chance in year two to work at the Chantilly school exclusively, he jumped at it!
He called the main number one morning and spoke with the Administrative Assistant.
“Hey, Annie. I’m stuck at the dealership. I’ll be there soon. Please tell my morning class that I’ll make it up this afternoon.”
“Okay, see you when you get here.”
He had stopped by the local Dodge dealership to look at a flame red Dakota 4×4 Sport he had driven almost every day for weeks. He bought it on the spot that morning and when he pulled up in front of the school, Maura and Annie, came out and asked for a ride around the block. Maura was average height with brown hair and brown eyes that sparkled with bits of gold in them. Annie was over six foot and blond. He could tell that Maura was mad at first, but then her happiness outweighed her anger and they had a fun little trip; even though the two women were crammed into one bucket seat.
Gregory liked being art-on-a-cart and not having a classroom. He did, however, desire an office. He asked Maura if he could have one of the storage rooms in the gym. They built a small shed on the back of the property and moved the extra desks and chairs they stored in there outside. He put up shelves, brought in a table, and made a place to park his cart. Finally, it was great to have a place to keep his supplies, work on his lesson plans, and prepare for class. It was a sanctuary and he was glad to have a place to call his own.
He needed one more thing, though, clay. Each textbook had at least one chapter on sculpture, but the school had no clay with which to sculpt! He asked Maura,
“How am I supposed to teach sculpture without clay?”
“I’m going to have to move some things around, but I’ll find you the money you need to buy clay. After all, my kids are your students too!”
When she had procured the funds, he called his friends at Pearl Art and Craft and asked what kind of discount he could get on some clay. They settled on a price, Maura gave him a check and he took his truck to pick up the supplies. Now he could really teach sculpture; that made him a very happy man.
Gregory was walking by Tori’s office when he noticed a pair of feet on the seat of her chair. When he poked his head in further, he noticed that she was asleep on the floor with her mouth hanging open. He just had to get a picture of that! He snuck out, ran back to his office, grabbed his camera, and then back to hers. He snapped a photo and left quietly. He did have to tell Maura and Annie, though, so they could see for themselves. The next day he downloaded the photo to her computer and made it her desktop. Of course, Maura and Annie each wanted one too. When Tori found it on her computer she yelled,
“Who did this?!”
Gregory, Maura, and Annie all pretended to be working when she came up to the front desk.
“Did what, Tori?” Gregory asked impishly.
“You know what I’m talking about! You did it didn’t you?!” she said angrily pointing at Gregory. She came around the desk and saw it on the computer screen there, too.
“Oh, that,” he replied with a grin. Then they all laughed, including Tori!
Playing games made the teachers laugh as well. Just because they couldn’t figure out how to set up the volleyball net in the gym, didn’t’ mean they couldn’t play a game. In fact, the group decided to play with a larger ball than regulation which made the game even more fun. Unfortunately, the Spanish teacher, Señora Aramaño, thought she could play in high heels and promptly turned her ankle, so she was out.
As the hibernal weather approached, so did the annual Winter Concert. Gregory was happy to make the backdrop each year. He worked closely with the music teacher on this and other productions. The students were learning songs for Winter, Kwanza, Christmas, and Hanukah, so he designed a “quilt” of squares on the back wall one year; one for each of the four holidays that they would be celebrating with instrument and song. He designed a giant snowman another year with a “carrot” nose that stuck out from the wall. He was even asked to play Santa the year before he joined WeightLosers which might have been one of the reasons he joined! The concert was another success.
When the next year’s catechism class at St. Michael’s came around, the new director asked Gregory if he would teach the new group of high schoolers. Gregory agreed even though it was going to be difficult. Denny and he had bought a chalet at Bryce Resort. They traveled up each weekend to the “Tree House” to get away from the city. It was called that because it was built on a concrete pedestal, thirty feet in the air, on the side of a mountain and had a perfect view of the treetops. He would have to come back early on Sunday morning, though, in order to make it to class on time.
One snowy Sunday, they came back from Bryce just in time for Gregory to get the lesson on the board, but there were no students in the classroom. After he had been waiting awhile, one of them stuck his head in the door and informed him that Fr. George was showing them a movie in the classroom across the hall and hoped he didn’t mind if they skipped his class this week. But Gregory did mind, so he packed up and left. He called the director the next day and told him about the situation on Sunday and told him that he would not be back. Gregory also stopped going to St. Michaels’ altogether.
Ben, Gregory’s old roommate, told him about a church that he should check out. It was the Arlington Metaphysical Chapel. Ben had “heard” from his loved ones who’d passed over. Gregory was intrigued, especially after he had heard his mother call his name once, while he was alone in his apartment at Tower 2000 after she had died. Denny was interested too, so they went one evening and as hoped for, he heard from Susan. In front of the entire congregation, she apologized for having killed herself. Through the medium she said,
“If I had known how much my actions were going to hurt you all, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Gregory cried and was finally able to forgive her.
They went to many services over the coming years and even joined the church. They went to a Psychic Fair and Gregory finally understood why he was he was hydrophobic. He had fallen overboard and drowned as a young Viking in a previous life. He heard from Susan on more than one occasion and Denny heard from one of his favorite Grandmothers, so Gregory made an appointment for a private reading with the pastor. He learned quite a few things in that hour, chief among them that he didn’t need to fear having money. He was told by his spirit guide that he had been a religious in a previous life. “So that was why I was drawn to the Franciscans!” he thought. And his guardian angel asked him to plant yellow roses in her honor.
Denny and Gregory’s first big summer vacation was to Colorado Springs to visit Denny’s cousin and her family. It wasn’t that they hadn’t been on vacation before; they had been to New York City and Disney World. It’s just that Gregory had never been to Colorado and he was anxious to go. Denny’s cousin, Deana, had moved there years ago with her husband and daughter. Denny was anxious to see them again and Gregory had never been to Colorado. They flew into Denver, changed planes, and then into Co. Springs. They had booked a suite at the Garden of the Gods Club Lodge. It was a beautiful place that overlooked the natural red stone monuments.
Of course, they wanted to do touristy things while they were there, so they rented a PT Cruiser to tool around town in, which Gregory insisted on driving. They first went to the Fine Arts Museum where a whole gallery room was devoted to sculpture for the visually impaired. It affected him so much that the next school year, he had his kindergarten students make sculptures that the blind could appreciate. Each sculpture had to have a thick part, a thin part, and a hole in it. He was proud of them for fulfilling their objective.
They next went to the World Figure Skating Museum & Hall of Fame, because what self-respecting gay man doesn’t like figure skating? They visited the US Olympic Training Center and saw where the Olympians trained for the games. The Cave of the winds was something they both wanted to see in order to compare it to Luray Caverns back home. Seven Falls was pretty impressive, too. They even had a chuck wagon dinner at the Flying W Ranch.
The Garden of the Gods and the Manitou Cliff Dwellings were a step back in time. They had their old timey picture taken in the town of Manitou Springs dressed as gunslingers. It was funny how Gregory felt about Manitou Springs. He was drawn to the place like he had been to no other town before. It was a deep spiritual feeling that wouldn’t leave him. There was an undeniable connection to the place. If it weren’t for all the snow they got, he would love to live in this beautiful place.
And of course, they took the Pikes Peak Cog Railway all the way to the top of Pikes Peak. The seats were at an angle which would come in handy when they were higher up the side of the mountain. They made one stop for a hiker to get off and hike the rest of the way up. When they reached the top, Gregory had expected to feel the effects of the high altitude, but he didn’t. In fact, he felt fantastic! He ran around the peak with so much extra energy, he felt like he was a kid again. He had to use the restroom before they went back down, so he went into the building. As soon as he opened the men’s room door, he saw a boy scout sitting on the floor with his back against the wall. His face was what can only be described as the sickliest shade of “Kermit the Frog” green Gregory had ever seen. His scoutmaster was holding an oxygen mask over the boy’s nose and mouth. Gregory said a little prayer and went about his business. The trip down seemed to go more quickly than the one ascending. The couple took one more trip to Colorado and they enjoyed it just as much as the first time.
Clearbrook had all kinds of special days: Crazy Hat Day, Crazy Hair Day, Backwards Day, and of course Halloween. Everyone got into that one. Gregory came as a hippy one year and had to explain what that was to the kids. He came as “Fat” Elvis in a costume that inflated with a fan and came with fake hair! But the one he loved the best was his SpongeBob SquarePants costume. He was a big hit especially considering it was the hottest cartoon on TV.
Pajama Day meant that Gregory had to buy pajamas because he didn’t own any. That day coincided with “Stories Under the Stars” which was held after school and teachers would read a short book or part of a book to students then they would read to another group of students, and so on, until everyone got to hear all the stories. Gregory read from one of the Harry Potter books each year, doing accents for each of the characters. The kids seemed to enjoy it as much as he did.
The holiday and end-of-year parties were something, too. One very memorable holiday party found Gregory singing the karaoke version of Santa Baby to his coworker Erika. He won a prize for it too! Another party had a casino night theme, so Denny and Gregory rented tuxes with white ties and tails. They were a hit. End-of-the-year parties were more about letting their hair down and having quite a few drinks. Many times Gregory’s tongue was loose enough to let things slip to his coworkers that would have been better kept to himself. Enough said about that.
Their second big summer vacation was to Las Vegas. Gregory hadn’t been there since he was a child. His father had worked for the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation in Boulder City. The family had lived in both Boulder City and Henderson and Gregory was anxious to see the area once again as he had fond memories of the desert. The trip to the airport almost ended their trip to Nevada, however!
They got an early start because it was raining. Unfortunately, they hit a large puddle of water and hydroplaned. Denny lost control, the car went up on a bank, and almost a hit tree. Denny swerved in time, but flipped the Pathfinder on its side. They both just sat there, Gregory hanging from his seatbelt sideways, for a few minutes counting their blessings. A police car just happened to be close by and stopped to help.
When they had extricated themselves from the vehicle, the policeman made sure they were okay and as a formality asked if they had been drinking. Then he called a tow truck and a cab. The couple made it to the airport in time despite the exciting rollercoaster ride. They had chosen to fly first class for the very first time and were quite a sight with their clothes covered in mud. All they could do was laugh and toast to their little adventure, so far.
After they landed, the couple reached for their suitcase off the baggage carousel and found that their indestructible rolling bag was smashed to the point where it wouldn’t even close anymore. South-South-West Airlines offered them no compensation. They shrugged it off and took a cab to the Venetian. It was a beautiful hotel, inside and out. Checking in was a breeze, but the elevators to the rooms were accessed only through the casino (ten guesses why). Their room had a great view of the pool and the Treasure Island Hotel.
Their first Vegas adventure was a bus tour to Hoover Dam, Lake Meade, and Ethel M Chocolates. The tour was very informative and it was good to see something Gregory hadn’t seen in over thirty years. After they left the dam, they went to the chocolate factory for a tour of it and its desert gardens. It was a day well spent. That evening they went to see the Blue Man Group at the Luxor. It was an amazing performance and Gregory was glad that he had ordered tickets for seats outside the range of the splatter. He also purchased a CD to take home because it was cool music!
Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum was connected to the Venetian, so Denny and Gregory went to see, and have pictures taken with, the likes of Lucille Ball, Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli, Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell, and of course “Fat” Elvis! That evening they went to see Rita Rudner perform at New York-New York. She was hysterical and they had an absolutely wonderful time.
Gregory had booked a skydiving adventure online also. When the day for their foray into the skies arrived, they waited downstairs where the buses came and went. But the car sent by the skydiving outfit did not arrive. He called and found out that they had been waiting out front! They hurried upstairs and flung themselves into the waiting vehicle. When they arrived at the airfield, they were instructed to watch a safety video and then sign a waiver. They were to dive in tandem and Gregory was glad of it. Denny’s instructor did not seem to have a problem with his weight, but Gregory’s did with his.
They went up in a small prop plane, Denny and his instructor sat facing sideways, while Gregory and his were facing backwards. Gregory suffered from motion sickness, so he felt like throwing up soon after takeoff. Gregory and his instructor were closest to the door so they got up first. Once they were out on the wing, he instructed Gregory to lean forward, so of course they promptly fell backward. Immediately Gregory found it impossible to breath. As the earth rose up to meet him, he continued to struggle to breath.
His instructor was equipped with a video camera on his left hand, so the entire trip was being recorded for posterity. Gregory had no idea where Denny was, all he could do was try to breathe. He tried not to think about how he was hurtling toward the ground at 120 mph and how perhaps this had been a huge mistake. He couldn’t even pray. He just didn’t want to die, not this way. When the instructor finally pulled the shoot they were jerked backwards, away from terra firma. Then they began to float. At last, he could finally breathe normally again and enjoy the view. As they floated closer to the earth, he was informed that they were going to make a sliding landing, not the standard kind. He braced himself for a soft landing, but it wasn’t as soft as he’d hoped.
If he could have bent down and done so, Gregory would have kissed the ground. But he still had a man attached to his back. Soon enough, he was released then struggled to stand. The camera was still recording, so the guy asked Gregory,
“Are you alright?”
“I’m okay, but I’m never doing that again.” Everyone laughed but Gregory.
They had tickets to a drag show up the strip in the old part of town. When they arrived they found out that it was first come first served, so they were seated in the back. There was no way they were going to see anything from back there, so they left before the show even started. Rather than waste the entire trip up there, they had their photos taken as Chippendale’s dancers. It was a silly souvenir, but they both got a laugh out of it.
As their remaining time in Vegas drew to a close, Denny and Gregory had to buy a new suitcase to replace the one the airline destroyed. They found one that was reasonably priced and would hold all their clothes and souvenirs. But when they got to the ticket counter it was over the weight limit, so they were charged an additional $50.00 even though it was the airline’s fault that they had to purchase a new one! Gregory let the man at the counter know just how he felt about the travesty.
As a result of the car accident and the sliding skydiving landing, Gregory was suffering from neck and back pain. He had gotten x-rays and a CAT scan but neither showed anything more than the usual degeneration for his age. He was going to physical therapy, but it wasn’t helping, so he decided to call a massage therapist. A friend he knew from Dignity who was a certified massage therapist. He drove to Boyd’s apartment in Arlington. Boyd answered the door in a pair of shorts and invited Gregory in. There was a massage table set up in the office and New Age music was playing. Boyd told him to go ahead and undress then lie on the table face down.
The massage started with warm, lightly scented oil. He was gentle but thorough. When he was finished with the back, he instructed Gregory to turn over.
“Don’t be embarrassed. It happens to everyone,” he told Gregory at the sight of his erection. When he finally did turn over, he noticed that Boyd was nude, too.
“I hope you don’t mind that I got comfortable.”
“No, of course not, I know you’re a nudist.”
Gregory tried not to stare but Boyd was hung like a horse. The rest of the massage was great, too. When it was over, he got up slowly and when he was ready, he got dressed. He thanked Boyd then he paid him, accepted the bottle of water offered, and left. He felt a hundred times better leaving than he had going in; no more neck or back pain.
Gregory was having chest pain, a cough, a fever, and it burned every time he took a breath. He made an appointment to see his regular doctor, but he was on the ski slopes, so he settled for seeing another doctor at the practice in Springfield. After x-rays, he was diagnosed with pneumonia in the left lung. He was given a prescription for antibiotics and told to take it easy.
The music teacher, Mrs. Robins, also got sick that year, but she was pregnant and her son was born with a constellation of health problems. Gregory went to see her in the hospital after the birth and then she took him to see the baby in the NICU. He really didn’t know what else to do so he prayed for them all. Even though Gregory would continue to have problems with his lungs afterwards, he knew that the Robins family had it way worse than he did.
On September 11th, 2001, the country watched and listened in horror as airplanes were flown into the twin towers in New York City, the Pentagon, and into a field in Somerset, PA. Between classes, Gregory went to the Principal’s office to listen to the radio for any news as did anyone else who was between classes. Almost immediately, parents began to come and get their children. It was the teachers’ job to keep the children calm and unaware of what was going on in the outside world. Gregory had to ask several of them to take their conversations into the hall, so that other people’s children would not be exposed to that kind of information until their parents chose to tell them. It was a sad day for all Americans and the world.
A few months after 9/11, Gregory hit rock bottom when the school was having a pep rally. He couldn’t make himself attend. It was just too much for him. He was drowning in a sea of grey goop and he was unable to break the surface. Just then he heard voices outside his office door and the handle jiggle.
“Have you seen Gregory?” he heard Jeb, the P.E. teacher, ask.
“No. Where do you suppose he is?” replied Cal, the third grade teacher.
“You don’t think he’s in his office do you?”
“I tried. It’s locked.”
“Let me get a key,” then nothing. A few moments later a key was inserted into the lock and it opened. Jeb looked in.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” But he was far from it. He needed help and right away.
The next day he started making calls to psychiatrists, but not one of them was taking on new patients. What was he going to do? He couldn’t go on like this any longer. He was going to hurt himself if he didn’t do something right away. He called and made an appointment with his regular physician. Maybe he could prescribe something to keep Gregory from killing himself.
“So, what’s going on?” his doctor asked.
He proceeded to describe the depressive symptoms he’d suffered through since he was a teenager and even the suicide attempts.
“I’m having trouble sleeping. I have no energy to do the things I really enjoy. And I’m thinking about killing myself again.” He did not however, relate his manic symptoms, because he was sure he needed them in order to remain creative. He just wanted to relieve his depression. The doctor said,
“It’s a good thing you don’t have episodes of mania. Then I’d have to refer you to a psychiatrist.”
Gregory kept his mouth shut. He’d already tried that route without success. The doctor prescribed Zoloft® and sent him off to fill the prescription. It was expensive, but Denny’s insurance covered it. After years of trying to keep it together by himself and failing, he knew it was time to get help and keep getting it. He had hit bottom and it was awful down there, so the only place to go was up.
It took a couple of weeks, but the pills started to work and Gregory felt the dark cloud begin to lift. The gloomy thoughts and feelings started to move to the back, allowing happiness and contentment to resurface. It was good to smile and have fun, even laugh once in awhile. Now that Gregory was able to enjoy life once again, he and Denny decided it was time to move. They chose a contemporary house in the Bonnie Brae neighborhood of Fairfax. It was a four bedroom, three and a half bath house with a fully finished basement. Now that they had a new house, Gregory needed to find a new church. He chose Holy Spirit because they had a folk mass. Gregory loved a good folk mass. He still went alone, but the music was so wonderful he didn’t mind at all.
While the new house was beautiful, it wasn’t perfect. There were changes that they wanted to make. They wanted the hot tub removed from the house and put outside. Making love in the hot tub outside was exciting for the both of them, but eventually they would have to get rid of it completely, because it kept breaking down. Next they wanted to open up the kitchen and make the old hot tub room a breakfast room. They did most of the work themselves, so it took longer than it should have, but they had the satisfaction of doing it themselves and that was worth the wait. Gregory spent his summer off painting the house. When his neighbor saw him painting the house shades of “purple” he told her that the colors were actually Naughty Neutral with Playhouse Plum and Morocco Red accents. It was beautiful!
They had made the new house a home by adding a lovebird. Gregory had picked it up at the pet shop as a birthday present for Denny. He named his little guy Billy. The next addition was a Norwich Terrier named Mugsy. He came to them with a special talent that the owners forgot to tell them about; Gregory would notice paw prints on their glass dining room table when he came home from work and quickly figured out who was responsible. Mugsy could climb on chairs and then onto tables! He had gotten the four and a half year old boy as a birthday present for himself, but Mugsy quickly changed his allegiance to Denny, so Gregory chose to adopt another, this time a girl.
She was a Beagle/Bassett mix he found online. He changed her name from Georgia to MollyGirl. It would take her awhile to get used to her new home and her caretakers. And she ran off several times, but they would always get her back. They had to assume that she had been abused at some point in her previous life. They were patient, though, and would give their babies all the love and time they needed in order to feel loved and protected. She loved all critters and tried to make friends with everything from skunks to squirrels.
Denny and Gregory took all their pets with them to the Tree House each weekend, including the Beta fish that Maura had given to Gregory. It was like a mini ark sailing on an asphalt sea called Route 66 which flowed into the I-81 ocean all the way to Mt. Jackson and beyond. But on President’s Day of 2003 they got snowed in. It was a blizzard that took them two days to dig out from. They made the mistake of parking at the top of the one hundred foot long driveway in order to make it easier to unload their little ark. But that meant that they had to dig out almost three hundred cubic feet of snow, because Mother Nature dumped nearly three feet of snow that weekend!!! They would never do that again when snow was in the forecast.
October of 2002 brought terror to the region. People were being shot by a sniper and everyone was afraid. There was a shooting at a gas station, but everyone still had to get gas! So Gregory took to pumping his gas with his back to his car, constantly vigilant. You had to stay away from Home Depot and MJDesigns, because that is where some of the shootings had occurred. The worst news came when a student was killed going into his school. That meant that Clearbrook was on lockdown during the day, no recess. Parents rushed their children in and out of school. The kids, and consequently the staff, were going stir-crazy! It was the worst three weeks of his career as a teacher. Everyone was relieved when the Beltway Snipers were finally apprehended.
Clearbrook had a little mouse problem. The day before the exterminator was scheduled to come they caught one of the little guys. The sixth grade teacher, Hilly, had an aquarium with a mesh top. They put him in it, but he managed to get out in Maura’s office. The two of them spent quite awhile trying to get him back in his new home, but finally managed. Gregory volunteered to take him home. Gregory called him “Bing-Bong” because he bounced off the top of his house like a ping-pong ball. He lived to be three and half years old!
The next creature to find his way into the school was a duckling. One of the Kindergarten classroom doors was open to the outside when the duckling just waddled in. Maura named him “Flash” and Gregory offered to take him too, because there was a pond across from the Tree House and a family of ducks lived there. Gregory introduced Flash to the mother duck and she adopted him just as he had hoped she would. He was going to miss having that little duck around. He used to hide inside Gregory’s shirt wherever he went.
When Tori, the Vice-Principal at Clearbrook, got pregnant, she needed a couple of months off after giving birth. David offered to help out wherever Maura needed him in addition to his regular classes, after-school, and maintenance work. While Tori was out on maternity leave, however, David got really pissed at Maura and called Tori at home to complain. She declined to get involved while she was on leave. Maura found out however, was quite upset with David, and extremely disappointed in him, too. David felt badly about his behavior especially when she called him into her office to confront him. She even looked as though she might cry and that made him feel worse!
“Tori’s on maternity leave. You know that. Why would you call her and try and get her involved in this? If you have a problem with me, you need to talk to me!”
He was silent.
“You really have nothing to say? What you did hurt me. I thought we were friends, but I’m still your boss. Keep that in mind.”
Shaking her head, she said, “You can go.”
Why couldn’t he keep his damn mouth shut? What kept getting him so mad and why didn’t he know how to handle those extreme emotions? More questions, still no answers, and now he’d hurt someone he truly cared about and didn’t know if he would ever be able to fix it.
Just before Tori was scheduled to come back to work, she brought baby Erwin with her for a visit. Gregory volunteered to babysit between classes, so that she could catch up on some work before coming back full time. She gave him the baby in a carrier that you wore in the front like a backpack and Gregory walked the halls bouncing him up and down. Gregory probably loved the experience more than Erwin because he loved babies. He’d even joked with his colleagues about adopting Erwin if it turned out Tori and her husband didn’t want him after all.
By the end of the school year, Tori decided to step down as Vice-Principal. That meant that Maura would need to find a replacement. David asked if he could apply for the job. He was given a test to take, but later, when he found it in Maura’s drawer, un-mailed, he knew it wasn’t meant to be. Clearly, she wanted Annie for her second in command. So when it was time to declare his intentions for next year, he informed her that he would be leaving his position as art and art history teacher.
Maura was clearly disappointed, but wished him well. He spoke with the director of the Special Ed program and asked if he could be a tutor, since he had taken a special class in the Wilson Reading System and was currently taking graduate courses in Special Ed through UVA. She gave her consent and David was all set to start tutoring students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia at the beginning of the next school year at both schools! He couldn’t have been happier to do something new. He had been teaching the same curriculum for five years and while he enjoyed teaching art history to the fourth through eighth graders and running the Artist’s Studio after school, which paid for additional art supplies, he knew it was time for a change. Five years at anything seemed to be his max. He sold the truck he loved and bought a PT Cruiser, because it would be more economical, especially now that he was being paid per student instead of a regular salary.
Gregory had a wonderful time tutoring his students. He prepared their lessons and wrote progress reports that he gave to the Director and to the parents each week. It was so rewarding to see their little faces light up when they got it. It was very different from teaching art. The students enjoyed his art classes, but he had to grade them, something he didn’t really like having to do. This was one-on-one and he got to see their progress measured in weeks and months. It was so unlike the way it was in a large group.
Not all parents were as eager to help out their children as the school, the director, and Gregory, the tutor, were. He had a particularly interesting student at the Sterling campus. Lacey was a sweet little girl who was having trouble with reading. Gregory worked with her once a week. It was difficult, at first, to keep her attention. She would slide out of her chair, little by little, until she was under the desk. Then he would say,
“Lacey, sit back up in your chair, please.”
She wouldn’t respond she would just do it. She did the same thing every week, but Gregory never lost his patience with her. She was really making progress, but suddenly, her step-mom decided she didn’t have dyslexia after all, so she pulled Lacey out of the tutoring program. When she saw him in the hall, and asked when he was coming to get her, he had to remind her that he couldn’t come to see her anymore. She hugged him and then went back to her class. Soon enough he would walk away from all his students and from Clearbrook.
Everything happens for a reason and as much as Gregory loved teaching and tutoring it was time for a major change.