I turned eighty the day before yesterday. My older daughter Jennifer, who brought the helium balloons to the restaurant where we celebrated, had heard that I recently started yoga classes. So she sent me a birthday card that asked whether I do yoga to “burn off the crazy.” Now that I think of it, I do if you understand by “crazy” the effects of living in a country of people more mutually disrespectful than I ever expected and by “burning off” the search for occasional peace of mind in the midst of all that craziness.
My younger daughter Margie picked the restaurant where we celebrated my 80th, which was back in the neighborhood where she and her sister were raised. Margie, like Jennifer a little girl then, said she remembered me setting off from our house to catch the bus for work carrying a briefcase with student papers crammed into them. That was in the nineteen seventies, way before the arrival of backpacks and laptop bags, and the briefcase she remembers was the one my father, who was a heating salesman, had carried to show brochures to his customers. I took that briefcase to work until it was almost in shreds when my wife Mary finally insisted on buying me a new one. My most recent briefcase–the one I used until I retired from teaching–was the laptop carrier you see below. That added up to three work bags in almost fifty years of teaching college English. My favorite one, though, was that first one.