There’s a Hole in my Bucket

 To write about the good stuff in teaching is to cursorily skim over the difficulties of my job, and to write only the difficulties is to put my thoughts out there as what might be considered whining. I go in circles wondering whether I really want to entertain comments about how easy I’ve got it. Or how hard.  Both of which are right. And wrong.

My day to day life in 8th grade is Henry and Liza and the hole in his bucket.Do you remember this from Sesame Street?

There’s a hole in Henry’s bucket, so Liza tells him to fix it with a stick. He gets the stick. He goes back to Liza to tell her the stick is too big. She tells him to cut it. With what? A hatchet! But the hatchet, he finds, is too dull. Whatever shall he do? Sharpen it! With what? A stone. Alas, the stone is too dry. Then wet it, she tells him. With what shall he wet it, he asks? Water, she tells him. With what shall he carry the water? He needs to know. A bucket, she answers.

But there’s a hole in his bucket.

Round and round.

In case you’re wondering which character I am in this scenario, the answer is both — on different days at different timesAs a child I remember loving Henry, his aw shucks manner and earnest questions. But as an adult I tend to sway toward understanding Liza and her impatient, under-the-breath frustrations bubbling to the surface. Forgive me, I never wanted to be Liza, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.

Case in point: a student I’ll call Student came to class this week on “Project Day,” an entire period I gave to kids for working on reading response projects. Two weeks prior to this day we went over the actual assignment in depth, they got the assignment sheets in writing and on Google classroom, we talked about preparing ahead to bring necessary physical materials, they wrote it down in their planners, we wrote it on the board, they were encouraged to ask any clarifying questions. I reminded them daily about said “Project Day”.

Student showed up on Thursday, having no materials to work, and no reading book with him. It went a little something like this:

H: Mrs. Hamlin, I don’t have my stuff for project day. 

Me: That’s too bad, that makes it hard to do your work. How did you miss this information? We talked about daily for the past two weeks – we talked about all upcoming calendar days. We wrote it down…

H: I wasn’t here Tuesday.

Me: Were you here every other day?

H: Yes, but I didn’t have your class every day.

Me: Did you think to come see what you had missed? Did you check in Google Classroom? Did you check the WIP? Did you check the board?

H: Sorry, no.

Me: Okay. We did talk about this a couple of weeks ago when you got the assignment sheet (where the dates are also highlighted for you.) Do you remember that?

H: Yeah, I lost that sheet, sorry.

Me: Next time, you can find it on Google Classroom. You also wrote this date down in your planner. Can I see that?

H: (Looks at planner): Oh, yeah. It says “L.A. Project Day!” But I had no idea what that meant.

Me: Okay. What do you need to progress forward today?

H: I need stuff for my project. Which I don’t have. 


People, this is daily. It’s an exercise in the most astoundingly asinine, ingratiating ridiculousness. On this day I had this conversation 8 times – that’s an average of 2 times PER CLASS.  And I have variants of this conversation all the time. With different students. About different assignments. Because of differing reasons. In varying degrees of lose-my-mindedness. Sigh.

The thing is: Liza loves Henry. You can see it in the beginning as she rocks in her chair while Henry gets to work. As the work increases and Henry just can’t seem to accomplish anything, she loses patience, yes, but never the love. She just wants him to figure it out, dammit. She wants him to get his ever loving self together already. God love him.

It’s December in public school ya’ll. Can you feel it?

But I Can Do His Laundry

I saw an article about helicopter parenting the other day, and in it, among many other things, the writer bemoans the parent who allows her college-aged child to come home to have his laundry done by his mother. I won’t link it here because well, I do that, and I have absolutely no problem with it.  Here’s why.

I can’t fix anything for my son any more. I can’t, and I don’t want to. I’m helping him grow wings after all, in these years of crucial wing-growing pupation.

He’s 18 years old, a freshman in college. He doesn’t live in my house. He doesn’t ask my input about what he can and can’t do. He doesn’t call me when he’s lonely (although I did get one vaguely sad text one time) and he’s no longer a consideration in groceries we buy and/or daily plans we make. I can’t hug him before I head up to bed every night, nor can I kiss the best part of his face, the place just in the back of his left ear, whenever I feel like it.

It’s killing me. It is so, so hard.

I miss him. I miss his voice and his feet thudding down the stairs. I miss his crumbs on the kitchen counter, and his wet footprints on the bathroom mat. I miss the way he gulps the milk he has with dinner, and how he suddenly has something very important to do when it’s time to clean up the dishes.

I can’t fix the fact that he’s not particularly happy at school. I can’t fix that he hates his history and biology classes. I can’t get him a job. I can’t make his dorm wing suddenly friendly and outgoing. I can’t run upstairs and grab the bandaids, swipe some Neosporin on that sucker and call it a day. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. And it never will again.

But I can do his laundry. I can take it out of the dryer, piece by piece, every single thread of cotton bought by me, and know that there will come a day when I will have bought none of it, not one item.

So, yes, I’m that mother who gladly does the laundry when it arrives at her house – a house that’s just a little bit dimmer without my son in it. Say what you will, or think what you must. I have no plans to stop doing so.

David Sedaris, April 11, 2017



I don’t always travel out of the country to make dreams come true. Sometimes I drive with my husband to the University of Maine in Orono in the middle of a work week. 

I do live a fairly rockstar life.

Back in April I attended a reading by David Sedaris, a writer I want to be admire. When I die and am finally granted knowledge of how all the cogs in the wheel of my life fit together, I hope an explanation of David Sedaris’ impact on me is first on the highlight reel.

I love him, by which I mean I love his work, and the too-limited version of himself I get in his published pieces. On the surface, he’s nothing like me. He’s irreverent. Fearlessly honest. Quirky. Unblinking in the face of difficult topics to address over dinner. Also, gay. He craves attention. He chooses to wear culottes. He doesn’t own a dog. He smokes (or used to). He claims to enjoy flying.

I guess that’s what I like in a writer? Sure, we’ll go with that.

Unquestionably, for you, readers (are you still there?), there’s a writer to whom you feel rooted kinship, right? You feel like if you met him in a coffee shop, you’d soon find yourself chatting not only about the time the eleven-year-old you rode for two hours in the back of your parents’ station wagon, dodging hot ashes from a Marlboro being flicked out the window, but also about how, when your beloved Mrs. Magrogan died you wanted to kick yourself for not actually reading the copy of Sophie’s World she lent you, because she knew you’d “get it” ( You didn’t.) He’d ask if you still have the book. (You do.)

David Sedaris would understand those heartbreaking things. And he would find humor in them, so you could live with the memories and still keep breathing.


I’ll share with you here a  favorite excerpt from a piece he wrote in 2008, but that could easily have been written last November. The man just gets me.

I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

I love the way he entertains, line after line, page after page, but then boom!, slaps me upside the head with some truth I had conveniently ignored. And it’s usually hidden in the tears rolling down my cheeks from laughter. The more he digs, the more he reveals, the closer to the truth he comes. He makes me laugh, but there’s a lot more to him, of course, and even more to be discerned with every piece he publishes, all of which I own. 

Yes, I will lend them out, for a price.

The price is my name on the top line of your will and don’t try to negotiate, hostage.

It’s not important that David Sedaris is nothing like me. Truth be told, I think there’s a chance he maybe is a tiny piece of me – out there living in other parts of the world, saying all the things I wish I dared, and embracing every quirky, awkward, brilliant and achingly scarred part of himself, all while standing in front of a crowd.The man is a nova – a star that continuously sheds its outer layers without destroying itself, becoming brighter as it goes. This is his life’s work.

He’s far from done, and I’m totally along for the ride. But though I envy his indomitability, I’ll leave the culottes to the man up in front of the crowd.