A few months after Cody and I married, we went on an adventure. We moved from Dallas to Palo Alto, CA so Cody could get a Masters degree from Stanford University. The program was one year in length. He had a full scholarship, our housing (a tiny apartment on the 8th- the top- floor of a tall skinny building) was provided, and he received a small stipend. However, I needed to get a teaching job to provide the majority of our income. I applied to every district within a 30 mile radius of Palo Alto. Only one was interested in me, and it happened to be the very city where we would be living. They wanted to interview me, so I flew out there. I really wanted the job. I really needed the job. I was so nervous. I wore a new olive-colored pantsuit. I left early in the morning and flew into San Jose where I rented a car and drove the half hour to Palo Alto. I ate lunch all by myself at an Olive Garden, feeling outwardly professional in my pantsuit and extremely child-like and alone on the inside. The interview seemed to go well that afternoon, even though my mouth was dry as cotton and my Texas accent was over-pronounced out of sheer excitement and nervousness. I left the interview and went through the reverse process of getting home. Every step was a source of fear. Did I know the way to the airport? Could I figure out how to return the rental car? Would I find a gas station to refill it before I got the airport? Can I navigate the inside of the terminal? I finally returned home late that night, utterly exhausted. Cody greeted me at the door with, "They have already called here and offered you the job." The relief was overwhelming.
It was a part time job going to about 5 elementary schools twice a week to teach 4th grade music. And, I also taught beginning flute to 5th graders at 2 elementary schools. This would probably be a good time to mention that I had never even touched a flute in my entire life. They had mentioned the flute classes in the interview and I had assured them that I felt sure that I could take a few flute lessons and pick it up quickly. Of course, I wanted that job so badly that I would have told them I felt sure I could build a spaceship out of straws and ketchup packets. There was one other flute teacher. She was of professional quality. She taught all of the other 5th grade classes. The district gave me three lessons with her. She taught me the basics of putting the flute together, the breathing technique, tonguing, fingering, etc. Fortunately, I did pick it up quite easily. Then, I was on my own. I taught myself enough every week to stay just ahead of my classes. Near the end of the year, all the instrument classes came together to perform as a band. My flute classes were superb. I had almost 100% of the kids performing at a high level. I heard a few of her classes perform and I must say that they were not as good as mine. Several of the other band teachers commented on how well my students had done. I have to think that it was because I was also a beginner that they did so well. Because I was learning the basics of playing flute, it was fresh on my mind, and I knew exactly what the kids were thinking and experiencing. Learning to play the flute that year was one of my favorite experiences. That was ten years ago though, and I hardly remember a single thing. The expression "use it or lose it" is painfully true.
That year in California, Cody and I did something fun almost every single weekend. We visited Muir Woods, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Alcatraz, San Francisco, the ocean, Northern wine country, to name a few. We were part of a small church that matured us greatly as we thought through many issues that had never been raised in our spiritual lives before. We met several lifelong friends there. We loved our tiny apartment in which we kept the windows and doors open almost year-round. It was one of the best years of my life.
Cody graduated, and we decided to move back to Texas. It was bittersweet. I loved California, but I did miss Texas. Before we left, I briefly met the woman they hired to replace me. She seemed nice. It was shocking when I happened upon an article while browsing the Palo Alto newspaper online that told of her murder. By the time I read about it, about a year later, it was in the trial stage. Her husband was convicted of the crime, and I followed all the grisly details by reading the paper's archives. It gave me chills to think about that time we had met, and how nobody knew what horrible thing laid ahead of her.
For some reason this week, I've been reminiscing about our year in California. Maybe it's because my brother and sister-in-law are headed there this weekend to celebrate her birthday. Or maybe it's because I tend to think of California when Fall is approaching, and the heat of Texas begins to fade. Whatever the reason, I am always thankful for that year and the memories it provided.