Spring. I am so fucking ready to see it. Cursing is not a very Spring-like thing to do? Too damn bad. Don’t get me wrong, Winter had some beautiful moments, but my turtle side always fears slipping into the warm shell of rainy afternoons and never resurfacing. In the midst of the hibernatory rest, I also continued (finished?) the transitioning away from school. As of June 4th, I have one year of middle schooler free life in front of me, to screw up and soar with as I will. Part of that transition includes some parting odes and thoughts to teachers, parents, and students. These were significant labors of love and honesty whose texts I’ve included below; the italicized part of “Done to You” was written by a current creative writing student who has an old soul in a tiny, eleven year old body. When I read them I feel release, I feel hope, I feel Spring.
I see you–
crinkle brained desk hunching,
a beautiful stew of
‘tomorrow could be’ beliefs.
You’ve always seen
that it’s magic,
and the tragic and panic
of not enough and too much
stay tucked in the bottom drawer.
I see you rising–
debating what to make your own children
before you send them out
to test the next day
with the selfsame soldiers
of your own beautiful army.
I see you unraveling
the threads of history–
so they can peer in between–
bringing science and math to reweave,
English and Art and Music to sing
of the beauty we’ve made together,
the beauty to lift and flavor
the body in which we live,
the one PE showed us was beautiful.
I see you with piles and memories,
full bladder and fast clocks,
a teacher face and a soft voice
to sneak into cracks in the armor.
I see all the light that shines on you
from 100’s of pairs of eyes.
Even though some eyes
throw lightning bolts that burn–
you have learned
how to hold
But for now,
I can’t hold it anymore;
the scores, the boxes,
the expectation locks that impose
a one-way flow.
I have to go…
In search of co-creation,
liberation of shared humanness,
of not judging the mess.
The quest for me
Is acknowledging my own magic,
leaving habits and ‘shoulds’
In the back of my closet
like ill considered 80’s jackets
with shoulder pads.
But I take you with me
Not in lesson plans or lists
but in scaffolding, laughing, and
“You can do this!”
I take you with me as the ground
that first bloomed,
and the room I needed
to catch up to myself.
“Crimes Against Children”
Same as any boring day–
heading to the grocery store
with lists and plans and dates
crowding my grown up brain.
That’s when I saw them,
tired man on cell phone with full cart,
and young daughter of no more than three.
“Daddy! Look! I’m a butterfly.”
She alighted on the curb
with flapping wings for proof.
He slid his credit card away
and checked an errant bag
that somehow gave him pause.
“Daddy look, I’m a bird,” she flapped
with more resolve
while hopping from one foot to the other.
Her eyes spun like dizzy blue marbles
and her laughter was frosted with mirth.
The man finally turned his attention to her earth and shouted,
“You are not a butterfly,
you are not a bird,
you don’t have wings
and you’re going to get hurt
if you keep playing so close to cars.”
As I passed I saw the stars crushed
into dull ash coat her once young skin,
The whole thing took less than a minute.
And I’ve remembered that minute for years.
As a teacher,
parents come to me,
sometimes with tears,
to ask what their children need.
And they’re good questions
like, “How best to educate? How best to discipline?
How do I get them to talk and know I’m listening?”
and my favorite,
“How do I protect them?”
They’re worried about the cruel rejections
of bullies and colleges,
impossibly perfect women polished on
the covers of magazines.
Not to mention the demons
who reach for forbidden parts
in forbidden rooms,
or young loves who assume,
“You owe me,” with fists and threats
and the internet horrors that
haven’t even been conceived of yet
to lure a trusting heart.
“How do I protect them?”
How do I start
to explain that the greatest crime
may have already been done?
The creation fire needed,
that fire from the sun,
was blocked by grown up needs long ago.
“You’re saying acting like a butterfly is going
to keep my baby safe?”
No, but when they’re presented with options,
don’t they need a way to move between them and take the temperature
with more than just pro and con lists?
And when someone brings your son something colorless
and calls it art,
he better know the difference between forgery and color.
And when your daughter gets trapped by rules
made long before you became her mother,
if wings are the norm,
she will launch herself from that place and
They’ll already know who plays fair
and wield that fine tuned instinct like a spear
at the gate of sparkling castles
that only princes and princesses can enter.
And you’re right,
it won’t hinder them from ever getting hurt,
but they’ll learn the spells and potions for rallying their army from around the earth
to come to their aid.
And the only work for you in all of this
is to rearrange
your priorities, just a bit,
to make some room for magic.
“Done to You”
I’m sorry it was
done to you.
I didn’t know in my youth
that this life meant
I’d always have to be right…
Or maybe I did.
As a kid there was no control-
maybe that’s why
I seized the godlike role
(Or maybe you just scare us
so we make you pay
with the same Kool Aid we drank?)
But so many years later
I can say,
I wanted it to be more
More than papers and power plays,
letters and lists,
more than us vs. them,
done to you.
And I often wonder what it would be like
if the roles were reversed.
If the teacher had to sit quietly,
responding so concerned
they didn’t sound like themselves.
Loathing the power of the red pen.
Depressed in knowing that letters on a website
decided their future.
What if the child were the smartest
in the classroom?
If the child wielded their power ruthlessly,
leaving the teacher thinking,
“Do they even care who I am?”
But I DO WONDER!
I expected adventures–
and in truth there’s been
more than a few
in spite of it all,
I’ve traveled mountains,
broke through walls,
unlocked puzzles and
that can not hold us anymore.
As a child, I expect nothing other than
teachers shoving information down my throat,
and asking me to regurgitate it onto a test.
We all go to school.
Learning from a teacher
whose years consist of being conformed the very same way.
Learning from these have-been kids.
Learning to bury our imaginations
And bury ourselves.
I guess even for those who soar…
it was done to you,
How did symbiotic creatures–
parents, students, teachers,
not remain teammates?
But, were we ever?
I thought we could’ve been,
but maybe it’s too late.
I’m sorry I waited
what was done to you.
They kept saying ‘almost’ and ‘just wait’
soon you can teach it the way you want to.
Could we do
Send you into the world with gifts,
not fetters of passive regret?
the debt accrued with vanilla pudding IV’s?
the degrees linked by no degrees
to your freshly beating heart?
I try to start and yet,
the language of co-creation
seems a foreign tongue.
We’re both so numb.
And while some of the things I’ve done
bring me pride,
some I’d most definitely
not want done to me.
I’d like to think
you’ll outgrow us,
what was done to you,
and live delirious lives
courting passion and purpose,
but the truth that hurts is–
it can’t be so for all.
We’ve lost some of you.
Hopefully, you’ll lose us too.