“Wherever there is an ending, there is also a beginning,” Teacher said with that half-smile that made us know she was testing us with some private joke.
“That is obvious,” Jessica said with a sniff. As if she couldn’t care less about the matter, but actually was determined to sound the smartest and get the answer the quickest.
It was the last day of school for the year and I knew that we wouldn’t be allowed to leave for the Festival until one of us got to whatever point Teacher was making. The sounds of hammers and flutes could already be heard over the wind in the eaves and I jiggled my knee under the desk.
Teacher was still smiling and waiting for us to get to the answer. Mother said Teacher could have been a mystic in a cave, just a bit removed than the rest of us. On a different wavelength, she’d say, but not without fondness.
“Where there is a beginning, there is also an ending,” Joselle said as she tried to imitate Teacher’s half-smile. On her it looked like a smirk and matched her personality.
“Often, yes,” Teacher said. But that was not the answer she was looking for.
There was always a lesson to learn and I stifled a sigh while I fought the impulse to fidget in the wooden chair. It would creak and I didn’t want to be called on. I just wanted to run outside while there was still light because the days were short. And I wanted to get a maple candy with the change that would jangle in my pocket when I ran. I didn’t care about riddles and wisdom, even if they were from Teacher.
My mind wandered and the answers of the others in my class were merely humming nonsense in the background as I strained to hear more of the Festival’s sounds of preparation. When my name was called, I bolted upright out of my dream.
“What do you think it means?” Teacher asked.
All eyes were on me. I hated that. I wasn’t clever or fast or witty. And I didn’t have the personality to pretend.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “But it makes me think of the end of the year and the beginning of the Festival.”
Teacher said nothing but slightly, ever so slightly, nodded.
“And,” I continued, “I think someday I’ll care about beginnings and endings, but right now is more important to me…now.” I finished and felt my cheeks warming and no doubt they were now red. I wasn’t an elegant speaker either.
But Teacher smiled, a full smile. “Class dismissed.”
I smiled back and sprinted out of the door into the last sunlight of the last day of the year. A good beginning or ending, no matter how I looked at it.