I was enjoying teaching first grade when my husband came home with a bombshell. The company he worked for had been bought out by another and he had the choice to look for another job or take the transfer to the Florida head quarters. FLORIDA… Yikes. I never wanted to live in a hot climate. Virginia was bad enough in the summer…. and that was before we had air conditioning. I love the north-west summers, cool and rainy. So what. And the winters where the snow stays long enough to be pretty and goes when you are sick of it. But Florida. Please NO.
I was finally doing what I really wanted to do. I loved teaching first grade. My own kids were all grown up, through college, and out of the nest. My first grand-daughter lived near by and now I was going to be half a country away. Please not now.
We flew to Florida over Thanksgiving weekend to see where we might live. Thanksgiving is when family is supposed to gather together, not spend the day in an air plane. My husband promised me we would have Thanksgiving dinner at the nicest restaurant in the Atlanta airport. HA. He could not have known that, if there was a nice restaurant at the airport, it would not be open. Any sane person would be home enjoying turkey with the family. So we ate day old stale sandwiches and flew on to Sarasota Florida.
After perusing some literature sent by a real estate person and a tour of some houses, we found the place we would live in for the next 6 years. It was small but on the water looking over a small bay where manatee appeared lolling about in the water. We had a swimming pool the herons guarded and there was a sailing squadron not far away.
I left my first graders in the middle of the school year to an unknown substitute. We drove to the airport, me in tears. My husband says I went to Florida kicking and screaming and eventually stopped kicking.
Alone in a new community is an experience we all face at some time in our lives. Other moves had occurred with the kids in tow so it was a new school, new friends for the kids and for me, PTA or church to meet people. Now the kids were grown, but I did have the quilting “habit” and found my way around town every day looking for quilt shops. I even took a quilt class I really didn’t need, just to meet fellow quilters. I found them. I found a quilt guild and met quilters. I learned my way around the area and eventually, found a school I might enjoy. I was lucky. I got a job at a small private school teaching third grade. That school offered me, probably, the nicest staff I have ever worked with. For 6 years, 3 in third grade and 3 in first, I enjoyed what my husband called “half the pay but half the number of kids”. They were great kids. It was there I had a couple of classes that I only provided the space and a direction. I used to say I was bigger and smarter than the kids, but with these kids I could only say I was bigger. I left that school to start full retirement with my husband, again to a new place.
Cape Cod was a new place for me to live in year round, although it had been home for me all the summers of my life. We added to my grandmother’s cottage on the water and moved in. There I was again looking for people who quilt. I found a local quilt guild and all the quilt shops and yarn stores. I started a small group that came to my house. We called ourselves the Way Far Outs because we were a little bit away from where the quilt guild met.
This led eventually to being the president of the guild. It also led to working with kids again. The guild put on a show every year and I hoped to get children’s quilts into the show. I talked with a fourth grade teacher and worked with them to make quilts that might have been used to show the freedom trail for the slaves from the south. I talked my weekly ladies into working with these kids, featherweights (sewing machines) in hand. This culminated in a trip to the guild to talk about their work. That’s a big deal for fourth graders to talk into a microphone in front of 150 “old” ladies. Needless to say they were greeted with a standing ovation.
The following year we made quilts connected to the theme “How does your garden grow”. We did “Creatures” the next year and another year “Oh the places you’ll go” and another “Fairy Tales.” The last year I was there we were able to display over 60 kid-made small quilts. WOW! Some were from school classes. Grandmothers worked with grand children and some times neighbors children. It was wonderful.
When I moved back to the west coast I continued to follow the same routine. Between working with school kids and teaching and taking classes I had busy schedule.
I have been retired for 18 years. When teaching, I did not keep a calendar of activities except for the shopping list on the dash-board of the car. Every day was the same schedule. Suddenly I had no school to go to and it became a calendar of meetings, let alone the grocery list. Well, you get the idea. I was busy.
This week the Otterbees met as usual. We chatted about our events of the week other than sewing: travel to another part of the state, bridge games and the people you meet playing bridge, book clubs, volunteer work, taking low-income kids shopping for school clothes, working as a volunteer at a shop which sells used items and supports local needs. Church events, choir, and local quilt guild activities. We also talk about family events and troubles. I don’t do all of this. These are the “retired” Otterbees, it is an interesting list of activities. Some of it I do, or used to do, others I marvel at the energy put forth. I still make quilts, swim at the pool and knit. And when I can talk someone into it, I go out to lunch.