The semester has ended.
The part of the semester that involves students has ended. I’m still sitting at my desk, calculating grades. The tally must be done — it’s part of the job — but this task is pretty dry.
There’s always a letdown at this point, when the real reasons for late nights, bags stuffed with paper, sharpened pencils, furrowed brows, last-minute prep, beautiful handouts, and teacher’s sighs pack up and go home.
Students. I miss them when they go, even just for winter break.
In the past few days, since a culminating evening of student presentations in one course I teach in, I find myself wanting to turn to my colleagues (other staff on the same course) and sing to them a random song that my sister Sally and I used to sing to each other on occasion and at random. Here’s how I (mis)recall the lyrics, and what I would sing: “The party’s over… take off your makeup… wake up, my friend…” The sound and the words linger on what has passed and will never happen, in just this way, again.
It’s a Nat King Cole song, yet Sally and I probably listened to the Johnny Mathis version on our parents’ phonograph player.
I can’t find a video of a live performance by either NKC or JM, but there’s a good one by Shirley Bassey. Check out the arm flutters when she sings, “The candles flicker and dim.”
2 thoughts on “– The party’s over”
1976. Madison Square Garden.
Michael Gott and I are sitting in the front row of the blue section up top. A microphone from my Radio Shack tape recorder hangs over the rail.
Queen. It’s the tour behind A Day at the Races. It’s my last prog-rock show before I hear punk and that changes everything for me. It’s also the last night I’ll ever smoke pot. But I don’t know either of those things yet.
At the beginning of the encore, a string on Brian May’s guitar breaks. A roadie comes out to rethread and retune. Freddie Mercury is vamping at the front mic, killing time while the guitar tech works his magic, saying random rock-star things, and then, to amuse himself further, he begins to sing …
“The party’s over …”
I can’t say that I feel especially sad when the semester is over, but I had a realization last week, as I was walking across campus and watching everyone looking intense and stressed, that I perversely *love* the drama of finals week.
It’s as if students and teachers are at long last united in their labor: the students are valiantly trying to show what they’ve accomplished over the last several months, and when they come to turn in papers and see the giant stack that’s already on your desk, you can almost see the lightbulb go on over their heads: “Oh, yeah–this is a lot of work for YOU, too.”
Though I’ve flirted with the idea of getting out of academia over the years, I can hardly imagine life without the rhythms and rituals of the academic year. There’s something so reassuring about them.