Saturday, December 15, 2012

Without Ever Knowing Why

I was in the faculty room at the school where I’m subbing when I heard. Everyone was talking about it in hushed tones. Everyone except the kindergarten teacher, a new father, who was having a lively conversation about diapers with another teacher who’s a new grandmother.

As our buzz about the day’s tragedy got louder and more disturbing, so did the diaper discussion – almost as if in self defense. All around the table there were calls for gun control and better access to mental health support, calls for getting the police involved no matter what the age of the student, speculation about whether or not something like this could happen at this school and what we’d do if it did.

But the loudest of all was the rather vivid description of how to clean a soiled cloth diaper to perfection. Two teachers begged him to stop. And then we all stopped.


Which is what we all needed, really.

Obviously I can’t speak for each and every teacher everywhere, or even every teacher in the faculty room that day. We all have our own sensitivities and convictions and fears. We’re just people, after all.

We ended the day on the playground, where the 3rd grade teacher and I conducted a team Messy Science activity – the diet coke and mentos geyser. Pure joy. Boys and girls of various ages, race, class, and abilities sharing a moment of joyful Science! on a Friday afternoon. This is what we’re here for.

I wasn’t even thinking about it as we walked the students to the busses. I wasn’t thinking about it until I came home from work and saw the flood of humanity all over Facebook.

I can’t quite share the outrage or the fear or even the sadness. It’s all just too big right now. Too much to fathom.

All I can share with any sense of certainty is this old John Denver song, sung by the Muppets. It’s been in my head all day, ever since the faculty room fell silent. And all I can wish for anyone right now is peace.

“It’s in every one of us
To be wise.
Find your heart,
Open up both your eyes.
We can all know everything
Without ever knowing why.
It’s in every one of us
By and by.”

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Joy of Six

Oh my girl. You are six, and six is only the beginning. But there you go already, wild and free. You’re braver than I ever was, but you have my introspection, my imagination, my love of books, my weak-knee’d adoration of all things cute and puppy-dog-eyed. You have a brother who challenges you but also follows your lead; who takes the fear and mystery out of “Boys.”

We were walking home from school the other day when suddenly you broke away from your brother and I, ran across the playground with joyful abandon I’d never seen from you on this school playground before. Six months ago, you’d sit in my lap and cling and whine to go home while your brother and the big kids played.

But this time you ran right into the thick of it toward a boy you know from your kindergarten class, leaving us in the dust. You made some incomprehensible in-joke and the two of you laughed and laughed. A few days later I saw you at recess, from the other playground where I was working, and there was that brave girl again, tearing around the playground in her pink hood, laughing with her friends.

Whatever you are, whatever you are becoming, you are not me. Why all the relief, I wonder? Was it so bad to be me at six? I was very happy in my own way, mired in my own little world of wonder, imagination, and self-imposed seclusion. Your challenges will be completely different from mine. No less heartbreaking, of course.

But perhaps I’m just slightly relieved that I won’t be reliving verbatim my own specific awkward, painful childhood moments through you. There will be different ones, nowhere on my radar yet, I’m sure. But it will be your path. And I will be the mother; not the born-again girl forever reliving my own girlhood. I knew that already, of course. But it’s nice to remind myself again from time to time.

I’m so proud of you, my girl. I love your heart-melting innocence and your unabashed delight in raunchy humor. I love your spot-on Homer Simpson voice and your wide-eyed adoration of all things American Girl. I love your pinker-than-pink dresses and your messier-than-a-college freshman’s bedroom. I love finding pieces of your writing around the house, especially the draft of your “Fem Song” (which I can only assume is a “theme song”).

I love that you have fallen asleep to the same Cocteau Twins album every single night since you were tiny. I love that, no matter how many times we tell you, you call the Beach Boys the Beach Brothers. I love that your expletive of choice is “Aw peanuts.” I even love that you’re still awake right now, interrupting my typing to hug me and say softly “When I grow up, I want to be an author!”

I love how you are shades of each of us, and yet entirely nothing like any us. And I love how you completed our little nuclear family. Our darling exclamation point. Our cherry on top. Our little star of Bethlehem, joining us just in time for Christmas and giving us an extra holiday to celebrate during this merry and bright season.

Happy birthday, my girl. This is only the beginning.

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