May is my second favorite month of the year, I’ve determined. A bizarre thing to determine, I know, and indeed it is in the large shadow cast by my beloved December with all its holidays and super gay merriment that I devour. And truth be told, I only recently realized that I had a second favorite, as if each of the twelve hold a ranking. I wonder what color January’s ribbon is in the “every month’s a winner” track prize scenario I have running in my head. Cuz, I’m sorry, but January is so dead last. Probably a weird salmon color, I guess.
I kind of clump October through December together into one giant time period I’m in love with, so if you really look at it May is in fourth place after all is said and done. Nothing to be proud of, May, you really don’t get to be on the podium in that regard. But with further thought, if I had my druthers I would skip November all together if it weren’t for the amazing pilgrim meal and shopping near the end. November has become nothing but pre-December. It completely lacks identity other than being the time when Christmas movies come out way too early and everything looks super dead until it snows. If that’s true, then May is at the very least a solid Bronze medal, which redeems it back to being a talking point and what I want to write about today.
New Years Eve is supposed to be a time of closure for many, with January 1st being the start to a new year. But with the way we butcher our time management today, I can’t help but feel like the “January = New Beginnings” Concept is furthest from the truth. May gets the new beginnings prize today. And even if you are not in any milestone part of life (graduation, beginning of summer vacation, wedding blitz kick-off, another HIMYM season finale where you still have no idea who the fucking mother is yet…) you can’t help but feel the change around you.
And I’m not gonna go all pagan on you, though I also get the subtle symbolism of winter being over and fresh flowers blooming and all of that shit. Truth is, I live in LA now where it’s always hot, I grew up in Colorado where May is prime for snow, and I’m currently watching Game of Thrones where there is a constant reminder that “Winter is Coming!” Yes, May is a time where girls can whip out the sundresses and barbeques are prime for Sunday afternoons, but at the heart of it I am in love with the transitions of May. May is this weird little bubble you get to have where you can reflect and pretend everything in the past was perfect and everything in the future is that oyster we are all suppose to grab at like the analogy says.
And, forgive me, I love the sap of it all. I have never fancied myself a Nicolas Sparks loving, Hallmark commercial girl. More in the realm of being a Kermit the Frog singing Rainbow Connection girl, or at the very least an opening montage of UP lady. I write long fanciful gush letters to besties on their birthday, and melt when men look nervous in tuxedos. It’s a healthy amount of sap to balance out my healthy and potty-mouthed cynicism.
This is the first May in a while where I am not transitioning completely. I just am for now, working an insane TV job where I get little sleep but lots of stories. I haven’t completed any course work in a while, and it’s probably for the first time in my life when May isn’t celebrating a personal end of an era. And yet, this is the first May when I decided it was my crisp number 2 in ranking.
My father, after 35 year of teaching, is finishing his last day of school at Westview Middle School in Longmont, Colorado, a school he’s taught at since it’s opening. The one regret I have with my dad being my dad is that I never got him as my teacher. Because I know he was the best teacher a kid could ever had. Sure, sure, go ahead, justify that “as my father he no doubt taught me every day.” I’m sure that’s true. He taught me to make Tafel-ritos, a gross concoction of tortillas, taco sauce and cheese he and my Uncle Mark invented in their youth. He taught me how to yell at tools, and how to win at trivia. I know I got my intimidation, pride, and bold personality from him, something I am forever proud of. And yes, we have had bonding moments that he and his students will never have, like the one time I got a hairbrush stuck in my hair when my mother was gone and my dad spent two hours with me crying and sitting on a toilet as he broke off the brush handle trying to delicately yank that stupid thing out. He doesn’t share that time I ran into a doorknob with other students, and his students weren’t there all those times we got breakfast in bed on our birthday. I know that, but the truth is, they were there all those other times I wasn’t. I never got to be a fly on the wall in the classroom and watch his students, as he said, “be scared of me the first week, and love me by the second.”
For as long as I can remember, my dad’s work hours were 6am to 7pm at night, though a school day was always 8am to 3pm. He worked hard as a teacher for 35 years, giving what he didn’t give our family to his students. I always liked the little snippets of his work I did get on occasion, like a puppy getting scraps of a sandwich, and happily walloping them up. Sometimes my dad would go into great details about a unit he was working on in class, like the mock trial he spent countless hour perfecting and organizing. I think he was always hesitant to bring work home, as we were a busy family with separate lives, but with units as big as this mock trial, it was almost like he couldn’t help himself. He was so proud, and I know many kids decided to become lawyers shortly after.
I know he transformed the track and field program at Westview, but really my only specific knowledge was that he asked for a gold ASU hat from me one year so he could be easy to find at the meets. I know he inspired my brother to become a coach himself, but my knowledge on how he coached is only an image of how he sits with his index and middle finger on his cheek and his thumb holding his chin up. Everyone knows that pose, it’s the Greg Tafel Coach pose.
I have met many of his students and co-workers in my life, including my boyfriend, who could only seem to reveal tiny positive details about him. Like just knowing he was really really good and probably their favorite but were for some reason sworn to secrecy with how. I worked with his night Janitor once who loved all his tiny newspapers he had thumb tacked on the wall, and telling me he gave my dad special treatment by not asking him to remove them by the end of the year. I also worked with a mother who swore it was her kid and her kid alone who had a special bond with my dad, and mind you she was saying this to Greg’s daughter. I dated this genius in high school who snottily acknowledged that my dad was the only competent teacher he had ever had. We didn’t last long. I have always been an outsider looking in on my dad’s teaching career, and now it’s May and now it’s over. And now it’s May and now we celebrate him. I love that we have this time to do so.
Obama spoke at my college graduation, but what I really remember was hitting a dueling piano bar with my four roommates, my four best friends, and whaling Oasis as if that was always our song. And you know what? Now it is.
I spoke at my high school graduation, but what I really remember was my high school sweetheart and I were rapidly coming to an end, and I could feel the pangs of stomach pain and fear of this new ASU college I was about to attend. I also remember my sundress.
Last May I was ending my Second City Conservatory, but what I really remember was how ready I was to pack my bags and say goodbye to Chicago. But not before I shared one more PBR with Kyle Coughlin.
The closest thing I have to May transition now, considering I am miles away from my Dad as he makes a final exit from his Westview hallways with the lame pink gym and lockers, is watching Kristen Wiig say goodbye to 7 years on SNL and watching her get choked up as she danced with Lorne Michaels one last time. (Or did she ever dance with him before? Lorne doesn’t seem like a dancing type…)
It’s all the same emotion. All the same appreciation for something important that has come to an end. It’s what commencement addresses have been trying to conquer for years, and failed for the majority of the time. Kristen Wiig, you done good, kid. Dad, you’ve changed student’s lives. You’ve really done good, kid.
And though today is just another Thursday of no sleep for me, May takes the cake of being super sentimental with new beginnings and heartfelt goodbyes. And you know, we need a month that does that once in a while. We need a moment to fester in our gushy-ness, to hug and cry happy tears, to be like my mom for a week or so. My dad deserves May, just as much as my cousin who graduated college, my brother who just got head basketball coach at his high school, my other brother who is ending his rugby career, my boyfriend who got his first big boy job, my old college roommate who got pre-engaged, my Colorado bestie who got real engaged for next summer (maid of honor, what what??), my bf w/ a v who got a fulltime teaching gig, my co-worker who finally got some sleep, my mom who gets her summer hobbies a go, my John and David who are beginning their movie, my artist who moved to NY, my partner in crime who got a tugboat, and me, who is sitting in a coffee shop deciding she loves May.
I want to buy a sundress.
– One L
“Long story long…” – My dad, when he begins every story he ever tells. I guess I learned that from him too.