Did you ever read the poetry book, Reflections on the Gift of a Watermelon Pickle?
It’s a collection of modern verse designed for middle school kids and is often used in classrooms. Its title is derived from an ode to summer, which you can see in its entirety here. Watermelon is used as a symbol of the summer that so quickly passes by us every year.
Its first two lines are speaking to me at the end of my first month of retirement.
During that summer
When unicorns were still possible
It has been a month of unicorn moments — seeing people and places that are new to me, being able to accomplish changes in areas that have been eating at my soul, creating the new normal. The watermelon is still firm and juicy; it’s amazingly sweet and can be devoured in one sitting. After all, I’ve still got a lot of summer ahead of me. At the end of the first month, it still seems like unicorns are possible.
This week not only marks my official retirement, it marks my 60th birthday on July 11.
A friend gave me a birthday card last night for which she shopped very carefully. I have to admit, it was quite jarring to see the big six-oh on a birthday card. I surely never thought I’d be this f-ing old. Like my mother. Like my grandmother. OLDE. My friend urged me to look past the number and read the sentiment, which talks about the future, and creating a new chapter for my life. I agree; that’s important and most days, I’m there. I don’t want to be my mother and certainly not my grandmother in my retirement years. Both were sick and often sick-and-tired of their lives. I don’t intend to be sick and certainly not sick-and-tired.
I can take my summer watermelon and mix it with a little vinegar and some spices and keep the important parts preserved for the future.
My almost manic cleansing of curriculum materials from our home and garage is necessary. It’s like an amputation, so I’m making it quick and clean. I’m not giving myself time to mourn over an educational system that no longer exists and that I no longer want to be a part of. I keep telling myself — and anyone who will listen — that recycling all this paper and emptying hundreds of dollars worth of binders and sheet protectors is only a symbol of who I was as a teacher. It’s all still in my head and a lot of it is still in my computer. If the time comes that I need it, I can recreate it. And it will be better than it was the first time, because I’m better now than I was then, too.
But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.
My friend also gave me a Pandora bracelet for my birthday, and once again, she hit the symbolic nail on the head.
I can hardly think of a better way to start my retirement. The bracelet is small and doesn’t take up much space, but each charm that goes on it will celebrate another unicorn moment in my new life. I look forward to the charms that represent my children’s marriages, the births of grandchildren, and travel to new places. The first charm was a tiny Eiffel Tower — so perfect for the “now” me, not the old me.
Unicorns are still possible.