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  • It was my birthday yesterday. 54 if you are counting or curious. Old enough so when I tell the kids in first grade I am ancient, they nod seriously. More than halfway down the 100 chart.

    The staff all know I am on my own. Some of them I've known for 14 years, some for a few years, some for a few weeks. They check up on me.

    Senora Cynthia makes sure I drink enough water. It is two cups of water for each cup of coffee, she tells me. I am sorry Cynthia but I always cut the number of coffees in half. Even so she shakes her head. I can see your wrinkles she tells me.

    Karen talks to me about cooking for one and wonders if I’d like to meet at the Boeremark (farmers’ market). She’s there at 6:00 on a Saturday. Shopping done in time for boxing class, she suggests.

    But they don’t press. I am them. They are us. We is a rare and precious commodity in a school or anywhere.

    So it’s my birthday. Karen gets to school same time as me, 6:30. She’s made me lemon syrup and a little succulent in a clay pot and a jar of pickled peppadews. The first grades make me giant cards with a note from every kid. Second grade makes a set of cards and troops to the PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE hands behind their backs to surprise me. I get a couple of chocolate bars and a lot of hugs.

    Ms Elizabeth in her mob cap and blue apron sets down her mop and folds me into her massive arms.

    I tell her I am 54.

    I am 58, she says. 7 more years and then I retire. I am tired.

    You are older than me, I say. I need to show you respect. I pull out a chair for her and we laugh.

    It is Tuesday and my day for Leadership team meetings at the Jo’burg campus. I've worked with some of the Admin team for 8 years, some for a year or two, some for a few weeks. I leave my little school and drive the 50 Ks to the three-hour meeting. I get there early and put my chocolate bars in the middle of the table.

    There they sit the whole meeting through. Not till the end does someone pick them up and wonder who brought them.

    I did, I say. Have some.

    When I get home I open the present I carried all the way from the island a month ago.

    Beginner’s Luke Book I of the Beginner’s Luke Series.

    I give myself my present, time to read and post a story.

    Log on and there in FaceBook are more close to 50 happy birthdays. Many, so very many from people I may never see, who know me only through my writing.

    Oh the world is surpassing strange
    Wonderful in irony
    Magical in connections
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