It’s one in the afternoon on a Monday, and I am sitting at my kitchen table eating Beefaroni and White House apple sauce. Suddenly I’m in third grade again, and I’ve managed to convince my mom that I really needed to stay home from school. I am eating at my grandparents’ table listening to “All My Children” on the TV in the next room, and I can hear my grandfather’s paper rustling from the brown recliner as he reads in front of the picture window. I’m thinking if I’m just quiet enough I can dip my spoon into the brown crockery sugar bowl and have a taste without him hearing me. He does hear me, though, and gives me a Little Debbie oatmeal pie instead. Life is good.

I really am eating Beefaroni and apple sauce, and the kitchen table I’m sitting at did belong to my grandparents. The crockery sugar bowl is resting on my sideboard. I’m sure “All My Children” is on, but I’m watching taped “Ellen” shows from last week instead, and my grandfather and his recliner have been gone for more years than I’d like to remember. I wish I really did have a box of oatmeal pies. Nostalgia is a powerful drug, isn’t it?

I took a “scheduled sick day” today because a) I am exhausted and needed a mental health day and b) I have a paper due tomorrow night and didn’t want to stay up until 2 a.m. finishing it. I have only worried about my students once, and that was much earlier when I was half asleep and had no control over my thoughts. Now I could care less, although what I like to call the Substitute Aftermath will no doubt be waiting for me tomorrow: papers stacked all over my desk, trash on the floor, desks out of order, unfinished assignments. I envy people who can take days off from work without having to make detailed arrangments for someone else to do their work in their absence.

Oh well. At least I will go to bed tonight at a decent hour with my paper written, and I’ll get to enjoy all the benefits of a four-day week. Life is good.

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