Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"Miss Wendy" moving on to exciting new chapter in her life

A wonderful life: Bubbe and Bailey creating new memories
It was way back in the early 1980s when the lovely Miss Wendy opened a special door that will be closing on a euphonic, if melancholy note next week.

We had just moved to East Cobb and our daughter Lauren was starting pre-school at the JCC. Back then the school was housed at Congregation Etz Chaim, the synagogue that we stumbled across shortly after moving into this little corner of the world.

Wendy, being Wendy, got to know the teachers and administrators at the school quickly, so it didn't come as a surprise when I learned that she would be joining the staff as a part-time worker. Actually, it all made sense.

For a decade or so, Wendy had worked in various offices doing mostly secretarial chores. It was decent work but, well, not really a career. That all changed the first time she sat in a classroom surrounded by a group of youngsters, held up a book of colorful pictures and created a story that both entertained and enlightened the children.

The lovely Miss Wendy had found her calling.

As Lauren got older and moved on to elementary school, the part-time gig became a full-time job. Over the years Wendy worked with just about every age group, helping youngsters find their way as they took their first tentative steps into the world.

She continued her important work in the summers as a camp counselor, eventually becoming a director of one of the JCC programs at Shirley Blumenthal Park. And then she blinked.

Now, nearly three decades of work spread out from there to here, a bit of time filled with the stuff of life -- playing and learning, laughter, tears and memories.

Hundreds of young students -- many part of her legion of "teddy bears" -- have made their way through her classroom, learning their letters and numbers, stories about a fella named Waldo and a warrior named Judah, songs and dances and how to make matzo. They've also learned important lessons about how to get along with one another from a woman who's lived her life smoothing out rough corners with a joyful heart and a constant smile that most always lightens the heaviest load.

And here's just one way Wendy can measure her success. Walk along with her into any shop, restaurant, grocery store or park, movie theater or synagogue, and within moments her students -- many now  grown with children of their own, others just a year or two removed from her class -- spot "Miss Wendy" and most always offer up a warm hello, a few words of shared memories and, occasionally, a little embrace followed by words of thanks.

I'm the guy standing nearby, the one who is occasionally greeted as "Mr. Wendy." And although I often roll my eyes and tap my feet impatiently, the truth is that I couldn't be prouder of my wife and what she accomplished in a world that was once unfamiliar, but now is partly defined by her personality and good work.

For Wendy it's time to retire and move on to new adventures; time to create more memories, especially as a Bubbe. But "Miss Wendy" and the children she taught and loved will always be part of her life, warm thoughts that she can embrace in the golden years of her life.  

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