I returned to school for the Trinity term to find an email waiting in my inbox wanting to know if I am ‘linked with anyone at present,’ in order to finalise invitations for the staff garden party at the end of the year. Although the email was profusely apologetic for the intrusion into my private life, I found myself strongly tempted to reply, ‘In this job? You must be joking!’ After all when would I meet other, likeminded, twenty-somethings? Between 9am-12pm on a Monday morning when I enjoy some time off whilst the rest of the normal world works? I also wondered how the school files such information: hopefully under S for Single, rather than N for No-Hopers? And, I pondered, how does one inform them of a change in ‘personal circumstances’? Or is the garden party really a big rouse, providing an annual cover under which it becomes acceptable for the school to update their current information on the staff’s private lives?
It turned out that my employers are not the only ones trying to marry me off like a Russian bride. On the children’s return, it wasn’t long before one of them enquired as to whether I had ‘managed to get married over the Easter Holidays yet?’ When I responded in the negative, a look of sympathy flashed across her eight-year-old face as she quietly filed me under L for Lost Cause. A great start to the term.
Interestingly, I’ve come to believe that the way each child greets me at the beginning of every term presents a microcosm of my overall relationship with each individual. In those first few fleeting moments I catch a glimpse of the way they really see me. Take, for example, the ten-year-old boy whose tennis ball I confiscated on the last day of the previous term, who responds to my cheery hello with a gruff, ‘Oh you’re still here’.
Tennis ball clearly not forgotten. Or there’s the incredibly bright little girl, suspected of being slightly further along the Aspergic spectrum than most, who exclaimed, ‘Oh, Matron, how marvellous to see you. Did you know they’ve found philosophical proof for the existence of God?’
Oh marvellous indeed. The absolute chart topper was Milly (of tortoise fame) who flung herself into my arms shrieking ‘My Matron!!’
As I hugged her close and told her how nice it was to have ‘my Milly’ back again, I suddenly realised that she isn’t, in fact, my Milly at all. At the end of the year, along with all the others that I’ve come to love, I’ll have to hand her back into both the far more capable hands of her parents as well as those of the next matron who replaces me. I tried, churlishly, to comfort myself with the thought that I also get to hand over those whom I perhaps haven’t developed quite such a natural depth of feeling for, but I felt that only put a negative spin on things.
As I came to contemplate leaving and all the things I would miss as I moved on to pastures new, I was assaulted by another email wanting to know what I was moving on to and where I would be living, so as to include the information in the trustees report. As I am still awaiting a decision on my Masters application I am unable to answer the former, whilst the staggered house-move currently being attempted by my parents leaves me, as the French would say, sans domicile fixé once I move out of my school accommodation. As a friend and I mulled over the hard facts of the case – that, as of July, I am unemployed, potentially homeless and without a life partner – she helpfully pointed out that I was in possession of all three of these things when I started work at the school. Once again, I found myself having to resist the temptation to reply with an email pointing out this fact so they can put that in their trustee report and smoke it, yet I feel that a negative spin is not the answer in this case either. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I see this set of circumstances as a blessing rather than something to bemoan. When I finish my job here, I give back what was never mine to keep and am handed a clean slate, a tabula raza if you will. With nothing to tie me to a certain place or profession the opportunities are endless. What’s more, the fact that I have no specific thing to prepare for or ‘look forward to’ means there is nothing to distract me from making the absolute most of my remaining time here, enjoying these last few precious weeks of being ‘their Matron’ and having them as ‘my children’.
You may, however, need to gently remind me that I filed all these thoughts under P for Positive in the week before half-term when the tennis ball has been re-confiscated and my philosophical facts pertaining to the existence of God quota has been filled to overflowing. My mental filing system often gets a bit muddled at that stage of term…