The Last Day of School in East Hartford, CT

As I walk down the sticky hot halls of Mayberry Elementary in the wicked June heat, I teeter side to side with sweat dripping down my back into Miss McKinney’s class one last time. Vitamix crammed into one big ripping bag on my left hand and a giant stuffed broccoli cartoon figure in my right arm, fingers holding fresh picked cilantro and a juicer, squeezing a poster between my pinky and my thumb, all in one last valiant effort not to make two trips down this long single hallway which makes up Mayberry Elementary.

Students planting beans in Mayberry Elementary’s new school garden.

There are two more days of school left and I can feel the excited energy all around me, remembering what it felt like — that last bit of school at the end of the year. Recalling the mixture of feelings that happen right before finishing something: that  moment of personal recognition of your growth and development — excited to collect a deserved break from all the energy it takes to relentlessly focus on the tasks at hand. Anticipating the achievements of experience, you must move forward. Slightly fearful, a touch of sad nostalgia, happy anticipation -— all bubbles up as you march on into the summer, into the future. Those warm long days filled with color and sunshine to ease any worries about all the changes to come. New teacher, new classmates, new friends, new work to learn. Today, I’m not so different than my students.

So here, I celebrate. We have our very first harvest from our brand new Mayberry garden, we make salsa with our freshly picked cilantro, we graph our vegetable preference changes, we make a big salad from the garden for everyone in the school to try on the last lunch together, and make special frozen yogurt on the last day of Sprout Scouts.

The school librarian, Ms. Butler, showing off school garden radishes.

I yearn for some sort of grand epiphany, some moment to wrap me up and seal the envelope of the past year — but I realize that will never come. It’s all the little things. I receive thank you cards, unending embraces, and hear the validation of a Sprout Scouter tell me she, “…hopes to be a FoodCorps service member one day.” So I wander into the garden, pick some herbs with the school librarian, a newly made dear friend, and I smile gracious thanks for the bounty of this year’s hard work as I watch the sun break up the cloud over the playground in awe.