‘Congratulations! Welcome to the fourth grade!” I shake this long haired boy’s hand and then bend forward and take him into my arms, having carefully placed a beautiful flower coronet on his head. “I can’t wait to meet you again, on numerous happy occasions.” I continue in a low voice, close to his ear. “I love you!” I tell him grabbing his shoulders and looking him straight in the eye.
“I love you too…” he whispers, throwing his arms around me again and squeezing me hard.
This is a child I was advised to give up on back when I took the class two years ago.
“If I were you”, the school mentor told me in a one to one discussion, “I’d take the class on condition that he leaves. You can’t handle him. I wouldn’t keep him either, and I am so much more experienced than you are.”
I disregarded the advice and took the class the way it was. He was not the most challenging child.
My greatest accomplishment as a class teacher is not what I have managed to teach my kids in these two years we’ve spent together. Not even being able to ‘handle’ them. I have loved all of them – this is my greatest accomplishment. And I have been loved by all of them. I have made a significant difference. In their lives and in the world. I will never be forgotten. And they will always be a part of me. They have helped shape who I am today perhaps as much as I have helped shape who they are now.
Going home in my new life, I’m looking at my reflection in the dark window as the noisy train is rushing along cold and damp tunnels. The lavender in the flower coronet next to my three owls on a branch present in the paper bag I’m holding offers such a refreshing feeling.
“Would you like to sit?” I hear a voice and follow the line from the fingertips tapping my arm to the smiling face of this stout young woman, offering me her seat on the subway.
“Oh, thank you!” I reply smiling back. “It’s ok, I’m getting off at the next stop.”
I’ve really started showing.
“You’re basically doing all the right things”, the ophthalmologist tells me after the examination, having almost blinded me with her strong light, taking the deepest look into my eyes anyone has ever taken.
The flood of light when I get out into the sun and the snow is so painful I can barely keep my eyes open and I’m feeling a little bit confused trying to make my way to the park to meet some of the kids in my class. There are no contours and everything seems to float and move all the time, as if I were trying to focus and the camera just won’t keep still.
“Mrs Daniela, Mrs Daniela, I missed you so much”, he says running towards me and jumping into my arms. I forget he’s grown and, hugging him tight, I lift him at my chest to make keeping him close easier on my back. This embarrasses him, so I quickly put him down and tell him how much he’s grown (though I’m not so credible anymore, since I could lift him).
“Me too, my darling, me too. Let me look at you” and I’m searching for his eyes and, through the blinding light still pouring in, I can still see that part of me I’ve always seen in him and that part of him I see in me every morning when I look in the mirror.
He’s so sensitive it almost feels like his skin has been peeled off his chest and his heart has no way of defending herself against the world doing all it does just by being itself. He takes it all in and lets it storm throughout his entire being. His heart is so big everyone and everything fits inside and there is still room for more. I wish mine were brave enough to be like that all the time. Leaving the doors and the windows wide open through the lowest and the highest temperatures.
He lives in India now with his family. A travelers’ family. We’re from the same family, so not even for a moment do I feel we have ever been apart. And I do feel, with all my heart, that there is a strong connection between us and it will stay strong and live through many life changes. I knew it since the first time I saw him – a strong, intelligent and scared eight year old, blinking all the time and hiding his eyes from mine. I knew he’s from my ship. We’re still sailing together.
Thank you, Rareș.
If there’s an important question on your mind, try asking a child about it.
On Thursdays I teach a creative writing workshop in the afterschool for third and fourth graders. Yesterday I felt like discussing and working on trust and distrust.
I started with a physical exercise that I learnt in a contemporary dance workshop four years ago. We formed a circle and took turns being inside the circle, eyes closed, the others placing their hands softly on the arms, back, shoulders, head, chest and stomach of the person in the middle. Then the hands moved away and the person in the middle had to lean backwards, forwards, left and right, eyes still closed, offering their weight to the others and being supported by unknown hands, practicing trust and noticing how that feels.
I then collected words on the board, describing our experiences. And each of us took time to write their own, personal, definitions of trust and distrust.
I was impressed by two definitions and took them in my heart overnight. They helped me reach an important conclusion that brings me to the end of a major stage in my life.
Here they are, translated from Romanian:
“Trust is a state of the human body on which friendship relies.”
“Distrust is a state of the body on which nothing relies.”