I greet my student Don at the library. He looks cool and crisp in a blue Oxford shirt. Probably in his late sixties, Don has been one of my students since I first started teaching memoir. Officially retired, he still serves as a librarian at Lebanon College. I greet him and documentary filmmaker Duane Carleton. We are to go across the green to the Ledyard Charter School for a showing of Carleton’s film, Overtaken by Darkness, about the 1986 murder of golf pro Sarah Hunter in Manchester, VT. As we walk, I chat with Duane about his film and his reasons for making it. Tall with long brown hair pulled in a ponytail and nerdy wire-rimmed glasses, Carleton seems amiable. We laugh and crack jokes about Stephen King and Duane’s own film, as we have to walk through the cemetery to get to the entrance of the school. Duane tells me how he saw King interviewed on Letterman last night. “He’s written a play with John Mellencamp,” he says, launching into details.
We climb the staircase where we are greeted by the head instructor and led into a room with familiar school desks. Duane and I joke about just how familiar they are. Their wooden surface is bolted to the molded chairs, a well for pencils carved into the wood. “I had these chairs in school,” says Duane. “Me, too,” I declare.
Don and the teacher test the DVD on her computer as students help clear out the desks and replace them with comfy chairs for the viewing. That’s what they call them; “comfy chairs,” and they do indeed look more comfortable than the desks. We sit in them and begin introductions when two representatives from the Lebanon Police Department step in. Don has invited them to come and I am pleased to recognize one from my interview and article on the force a couple of years ago. My brother, Paul, away at Boot Camp for the National Guard, is a Lebanon Police Officer, so I proudly introduce myself as Paul’s sister. After the film and a lively discussion, I have the opportunity to chat with the officers.
“How’s your brother?” they ask. “Have you heard from him?” I give them the details from Paul’s last letter. He leads the squadron in cadence and to church, has qualified as an expert marksmen. They jokingly say he has “a voice like Jesus” and alternate between calling him Vin Diesel and Old Man. He is doing well, but has a challenge dealing with the emotions of some of the younger men. He realizes that some our younger than his own 17-year-old son, Christian.
“I’ve heard about you,” the acting chief tells me. “Oh, oh,” I say. “From reading the article,” he explains, and I feel suddenly proud because it is my reputation and not my brother's that is grabbing his attention. We leave the meeting satisfied. Don has had the opportunity to share about the college and I may even get some perspective memoir students out of the day.
It is a good day work wise. Don and I grab a bite to eat at the corner restaurant and chat about our common interests – the college, Don’s writing, mutual friends. Full and happy we part ways. I walk toward my car when I remember that I want to check out two dogs I saw in a storefront window for another article I am doing on dogs in the workplace. As I gather my phone from the car, I glance another big dog. The curl to his tail suggests he’s an Akita, but he lacks the upright ears and his head is square. I turn and stroll toward the dog and its owner, asking, “What breed is your dog?”
“Akita and maybe St. Bernard,” he answers. I ask to pet the dog and gush to the owner how I was off to see about some shop dogs. “He’s a shop dog, too,” I’m told. I take the man’s card and promise to call him next week, happy to have another lead. I cross the street and grab another card from the store owner of the two dogs I saw in the window. Another article underway.
Today, I like my job. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, often pulled in too many directions. Today, I wouldn’t give up any of my work. The teaching, the writing, this blog, all feed different parts of me. At the end of the day I loaded my car and drove home, tired but satiated. Tomorrow I will worry about how to get everything done. Today I am thankful for work I love.