Practice What You Teach
On Monday night of last week, I decided to surprise my husband by making his favorite football food while he watched the National Championship game. Baseball season is nigh, so he was just coming in from practice when I started frying the bacon for the potato skins. "How was your day?" I asked. When he responded with "eventful" I looked up, as that's never a positive word.
"Barrett's leaving," he said. And I promptly burned my hand in the bacon grease. Then I took to my bed.
Barrett, as many of you know, is Barrett Donahoe, the headmaster at Marshall Academy and my husband's boss. He's also been a dear friend to my family for many years now, since he was head football coach there in 2012 when I taught there as well. I knew his wife Ryann when they married. They moved to Columbus the year I met her. We were both pregnant with the first of our children when she left, and we all stayed in touch. When Annie was only a week old, I can remember text conversations with Ryann at 3 in the morning, asking her if it was normal for babies to cry this much. She was up with her own daughter, Addie Rivers, and we muddled through early motherhood together, even if by phone.
When I got the news that they were coming back to Holly Springs in the spring of 2016, I was overjoyed. Ridiculously so. As JT was sickly then, we toyed with the idea of me coming back to MA to teach to be close to my son. But it worked out a year or so later that Jason was more bang for the buck, so to speak, as he could coach. So the boys were back together again. I took Annie to meet the then 3-year-old Addie Rivers and after a playdate of several hours, she cried her eyes out when it was time to leave her new best friend and their "girl time." They've been inseparable ever since. JT and their son Hayes were then in diapers. They
don't remember life when they weren't best friends. For four years, Jason has been Barrett's first mate at work and outside of it, too. Ryann has been my friend and confidante. Addie Rivers and Hayes have been constant in our lives for years now. And things are about to be really different.
I'm still trying to process it. I know the rhymes and reasons why he's leaving. He's been offered an incredible career opportunity, one that he couldn't not consider. A lot of folks have a lot of feelings about this. I've heard lots of the talk. Everyone, I think, hates to lose him.
Barrett Donahoe has been good for our school, good for our kids, good for this community. He has been fair and honest and forward-thinking. He has left our school in the most positive position it has been in in many, many years. The campus is in better shape, the structure more disciplined, and the student body more diverse and plentiful than it's been in some time. These are wonderful, necessary things. We were lucky to have him. Of course we are sad to see our headmaster leave. It's hard to imagine him not running along the sidelines at a football game, or leaning against the gym wall during basketball season, shaking the hands of students as he passes in the hall, being in that office any time we needed him for our kids. Because of these things, we are all taking it hard.
But if you see him, shake his hand, clap him on the back, and tell him thanks for bettering our corner of the world instead of reacting with hard feelings. School family, we are going to be OK. He has set us up to be OK for a long time. He deserves our thanks, despite our sadness.
But it's a little more than losing a head of school to me. It's going to change nearly every aspect of the Taylor family day-today. My kids don't understand yet. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to sit down to tell them. I'm not sure what life without the Donahoes looks like yet. I don't know how I'll look across the street and imagine them not being in their home. I don't know how I'll send my kids off to school and not know that they'll be with their precious little besties. How will I get through football Fridays or ballet Tuesdays without Ryann by my side? For goodness sake, even their dog is best friends with my dog! When Barrett called last Monday night to tell me himself, I was unable to speak to him. I have hardly said a word to him since. I tell him I'm mad at him. But mostly I'm sad, deeply, deeply sad. While everybody is wondering what we will do without Barrett, the football coach, and Barrett, the headmaster, I'm wondering how I'm going to do without Barrett, my friend. I suppose I'm lucky to have made it to the age of 38 without having a friend move away.
I'm going to get OK with it eventually...when I know they are OK and happy and loving their new home. But mine will look a lot different without them in it.
Pillow Academy has no idea how lucky they are to have stolen away our precious Donahoes. They will always be welcome back here with open arms. I hope they know that.
So even if I can't express it in person without some level of violence right now, I will miss you, Barrett Donahoe. You take care of my people down there. And don't forget about us up here. Godspeed, my friend.
Sarah Taylor resides in Holly Springs and teaches at Blue Mountain High School.