BY MAHLON MILLER
“Done with history, ready to make history.”
I smiled. I was checking the seventh and eighth graders final history lesson and eighth-grader Lawayne had scribbled the above quote at the bottom of his page. I smiled but I was smiling too soon. The very next Saturday was the last day of school. All the parents and most of the grandparents crowded the classroom and we sang a couple of songs, recited verses, and officially turned over our eighth graders to the care of the wider community. After the parting song was sung and a big carry-in meal was eaten we were ready for the highlight of the day: the annual students vs. men softball game. I’ve never found out where this ball game originated but in the Amish community the last day of school ballgame is as inevitably a part of spring as taxes and dogwood blossoms. I imagine the practice might come from the days of one-room public schools. Wherever it comes from, the game is always played and it is accompanied by lots of good-natured bragging and banter. The men win every year. But the students always come back the following spring with high hopes and fresh ambitions spurred on by oft-repeated stories of some time long ago when the men did not win.
This spring started out in the usual pattern. After Christmas the ball game started surfacing occasionally during conversation. Two weeks before the end of the term it was certainly the most discussed subject at school and in the last several days it was practically the only subject discussed. But by the bottom of the third inning of the game it was becoming obvious that this spring wasn’t following through on the normal pattern.
Maybe all of those casseroles and desserts slowed the men down. Maybe having lost one of their best players to a bad knee made the difference. Maybe they are getting old. Or just maybe Lawayne was right and this seventh and eighth grade class will make history. They certainly did on Saturday afternoon. For the first time in over 20 years the men lost the game. The score was 10 to 4 after nine innings. And we have a new set of heroes and a fresh batch of stories to repeat to everyone who will listen. In spite of my smile at Lawayne’s comments I do encourage my students to dream big dreams. Lawayne is going to grow up to be an excavator/electrician/horse-trainer/small engine mechanic/naturalist/artist and maybe a husband and father but right now those last two don’t seem very important to him. I tell him to keep dreaming. He can do anything in the world he wants. All he has to do is try hard enough. But I smile to myself. Let him dream, I think. He’ll find out soon enough that life bumps and buffets us around for awhile and 10 or 15 years later we are trying to figure out how we happen to be here doing this when we started out to go there doing that. 14 is a good age to dream. ! still dream a little bit at 31 but not as much as I used to. I had planned to do 1000 great and noble things and ended up only getting a few of them started when I got sidetracked with teaching. Now I seem to be stuck with that. It is a wonderful thing to be stuck with but meanwhile life is moving fast. I am realizing that well over 950 of my ambitions will never get realized by me. On second thought maybe they will indirectly. One person can’t ever be 1000 or even 100 different things. But every time I graduate a class a little bit of me goes away with each student. I can feel the tugging. And if I could graduate 100 students…..