I live in a fairly small town. I never know exactly how big it is because, unlike Texas, New Mexico doesn't put population signs up at city limits.*
Therefore, I have to gauge the size of New Mexico towns by the number of franchises and chain stores. Which may be part of my problem.
This is how big Los Alamos is: oneMcDonald'soneSonictwoHolidayInns
You get the picture?
* And I have to mention that Los Alamos is not even a 'town'. It looks like a town, it smells like a town, it feels like a town - but it's just a county.** We have no mayor; we have a County Council. Weird.
** And to make it even weirder, there are actually two non-towns in the county of Los Alamos. White Rock is 12 miles away and would be considered a town in any other place, but obviously - we do things differently here in Los Alamos COUNTY.***
*** Just wanted you to know that I'm really enjoying my current use of asterisks.
Oh. The purpose of this blog.
Anyway, Los Alamos and White Rock, combined, have five small elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Until this year, I was the school counselor at the largest elementary school (about 440 students).
I was Mz. Neil. And, being the attention-seeking princess I am, I loved going to the grocery store, local restaurants, community concerts, and the pool because I heard a chorus of MZ. NEIL!
MZ. NEIL! MZ NEIL! (If I closed my eyes and envisioned the crown on my head, I could nearly feel the adoration of my fans as I walked down the red carpet of life.)
And I especially liked the swimming pool because ---
well, let's face it ---
I need elementary-aged kids at a pool. I don't like to swim laps. I don't like water aerobic classes. I like to turn frontward and backward somersaults while holding my nose, talk to people underwater, dive for stuff, make funny swimming pool hairstyles, and stand on my hands.
As a fat grownup, ya look like an idiot doing that stuff if you're not surrounded by elementary students.
For the last year, I have been the school counselor at the middle school. Boy, has that changed my local status.
Something happens between 6th grade and 7th grade. I don't really have a scientific theory about what happens but I do know that it manifests, here in Los Alamos, as kids changing from little hugging creatures with big smiles who chant Mz. Neil! Mz. Neil! Mz. Neil! to alien beings who look at me like I've grown bananas out of my ears.
Scene: At the pool.
Me to 6th grade Charlie: "Hi, Charlie!"
Charlie: "MZ. NEIL! MZ. NEIL! MZ. NEIL!, COME PLAY WITH US" while enthusiastically hugging my waist.
Scene: At the pool.
Me to 7th grade Charlie: "Hi, Charlie!"
Charlie: Eyes averted and downcast, with quickened pace, jaw clenched, mouth barely open, quietly and begrudgingy breathes out ...."hi".
Now, don't get me wrong. I LOVE MY JOB AT THE MIDDLE SCHOOL. It's different though.
I don't get to deal with second grade boys peeing on trees or eating worms. I don't get to do conflict resolution with third grade girls fighting over a ball or learning the fine art of rumor-making. I don't get to talk to kindergarteners about wiping their butts. I don't get to color or play in the doll house. I don't get to be adored.
But, I do get to love on kids who are at a time in their lives when it is natural to feel unlovable. I get to talk to eighth grade boys about the use of deodorant and the necessity of pulling up their pants. I get to make pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches for human becomings who are forever starving. And I get to continue helping girls refine their art of rumor-making.
But I miss hearing "MZ. NEIL!" ring out over the sound of other voices. I miss the hugs.