Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mother of Disposable Sons
















I am hosting Thanksgiving this year, at my home, like a grown up.

I slowly drove up to the Farmer's Market.  Yes, the DeKalb County Farmer's Market, on the day before Thanksgiving.  I knew it was a mistake and resigned myself to my punishment. 

I read over the morning news and then felt awkward when I read Facebook.
A black friend posted:  "Jury of nine whites and three blacks, it only took nine to dismiss."  I don't usually call her a 'black friend'.  I normally call her Renee.  But I knew right now I was only a white person to her.  
I crawled under my chair when a 'white friend' posted a Chris Rock video that mocked how "not to get your ass kicked".  It entailed not breaking the law and not acting like a thug, as if that is the reason why black men are incarcerated or killed.  Chris Rock can say whatever he wants, but I was appalled to see a 'white friend' that I normally call Bridget, share the video a day after, you know, what happened.
A 'black friend' posted a story about a 'white' neighbor that chased down a 'black' person for stealing something off of his porch.  "We must educate our children!" the 'black' friend preached, a day after, you know, what happened.  Because, yeah really, 'education' is the problem. 
A 'white friend' that I normally call Brenda posted a meme of a looter with a caption that read:  "Steal a belt".  What a take away.  That really sums it all up.   And, a day after it happened. 
A 'black friend' that I normally call Dina put up a one line statement:  "I am the mother of disposable sons".

A man walked threw the Market with a pile of pizzas in his arms.  He definitely had the right idea.  

I watched the immigrants that staff the Farmer's Market move and shake and socialize with each other.  A variety of languages shot out of their mouths, Arabic, Amharic, etc.  I could only imagine what their thin bodies and narrow limbs thought of our gluttonous holiday.

"Ask yourself, people, ask yourself!  Where is the eggnog?" a women chanted by the dairy section of Kroger.   

I walked out, heaving my cart onto the grass and leaving it there, only to see a pizza ad under my windshield wiper.

"Next year," I thought, "next year."



Friday, November 21, 2014

Isle of Misfit Toys

As I entered the fourth grade classroom, I noticed a series of bags of yellow fluid, labeled with names, attached to the windows of the room.
"Why is your pee hanging from the windows?" I asked the class.
"IT'S NOT PEE!" they screamed.
"IT'S A SCIENCE EXPERIMENT!  IT IS FOOD COLORING!"
"Um, Mr. Robin, color choice?"
"I know, my bad, you all close your mouths and get ready for Spanish" he announced and exited.

"It is a chicken, stuffed with a duck, shoved inside a turkey".
What the fuck.  This duckfurky what the fuck ever thing was about to make me vomit.  How many ass like orifices could be filled with meat?
"And it's sewed together...."
Okay, I really am throwing up right now.
"We are going to have it my aunt's house because Grandma won't be there...."
Bailey looked at me sideways.
"What happened to Grandma?" he whispered.
"She is probably about to be stuffed with meat" I answered, while we both stared straight ahead.

Jonas was practically laying on top of me while I sat in the chair, reading my email, while on duty.

My duty consists of watching kids go up the stairs in the morning and then go down them again in the afternoon.  It takes about forty minutes a day to perform this act.  I actually don't mind it, I kind of wake up or wind down and I get to hear the beginning and ending of hundreds of kids' day.  Weird kids that don't even know me share odd details.  It's cool. 

Jonas, the large headed boy with proximity issues prattled on.  Kids were staring at us.  I was pinned to the corner, his face pressed to my cheek, while we discussed our upcoming vacation.
"You know, Jonas, I am exhausted!  What about you, big plans for the break?"
"Well, nothing special.  Eating, relaxing.  Why, I should have attended that cabinet meeting!"
"Oh, Jonas.  Nothing escapes you.  That email is refering to teacher representatives that meet with our principal to discuss big events happening at school.  You know, like the President's cabinet".
"Okay.  But I am still quite concerned that the lunch option is Manager's choice today" he responded.
"Actually, it is funny that you mentioned that.  What is Manager's choice?  It could be amazing, it could be disgusting.  We have no idea....."
"And, no salad bar option.  If we pick it, we eat it.  No fall back"
"Same for us.  Teachers have to pick by eight in the morning...sight unseen....and right now it is like, 7:20 AM.....I am thinking hummus plate".
"THAT is very smart" he announced, removing his face from my face and staggering up the stairs, all while engaging an unsuspecting random child in new conversation.

I have thought about abandoning Spanish instruction to work with the weirdo kids that I adore.  The  Olivers and the Jonas' and the Emilys.  Most of these kids require a straight face and heavy behavior modification in order to show them social norms, like not shoving your face onto another person's face while talking, like looking a person in the eye, not discussing that you don't like pants out loud, randomly. 

I can't do it.  It would be wrong for them, because I think all of their idiosyncrasies are too amazing and fun to be suppressed.  And they have to be.

I just can't be the one to do it. 


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hello Lamppost

I fumbled for the alarm clock.  Lola laid on my leg as part of her aggressive cuddle program.  I was pinned to the bed.  Why was I so fucking tired?

"Okay!" the chipper parent announced.
"We've made some big changes to this year's Poetry Slam!"
My it was early.
"You know your students!  Pick a dramatic one, well spoken, likes to be on the stage!  You know your good ones!"
"In the past we have had representatives from each grade present a piece in Spanish to represent our language program...." my co-worker began.
"Cute!  Maybe I can get you a spot!  Wouldn't French be better?!"
"Look you elitist bitch, do you have any idea what goes on at this school or do you just busy yourself with shoving your head up your ass?"  I inquired, or wished I did.

"Gotta go to the bathroom" Oliver stated as he walked toward the door, tugging at the crotch of his pants.
He was back in seconds.  He was shifting a lot, agitated.  He stood up and tried to take his pullover sweatshirt off.   His shirt came halfway off too, leaving him semi-naked in the middle of the classroom.  His fly was down.  I thought I saw skin instead of underwear.  All of the kids were staring and some were starting to laugh. 
I started to laugh too and pulled Oliver's shirt back down.
"Come on, silly, you're half naked!"
He laughed and slumped back down, leaning back and practically laying on the girl in the seat behind him.  Then he picked his nose.  And ate it.
"Move up silly, you are in someone else's space".
He rose back up.
"Gotta go to bathroom".
He was back again in seconds and remained standing by his table while beginning to draw the activity.
"Can you sit down, Oliver?'
"More comfortable standing up".
"Okay"  I was mentally begging him not to say 'PENIS'.
"I DON'T LIKE PANTS" he announced suddenly and strode across the room. 
A few of the meaner spirited boys were laughing now and mimicking him. 

I leaned into the face of one of them.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?"  I asked lowly, my eyes inches from his. 
"Shutting up" he responded.
"Exactly"
I snapped out of my child abuse fantasy as Oliver again left the room.  I was actually relieved that he wasn't crying, that he seemed relatively happy even while agitated.  I don't know why nothing will stop me from adoring this kid, even when he picks his nose. 
The sun wasn't up yet.  

The presenter coached a participant through the acting portion of the foreign language teaching method we were learning.
"Muter! Muter!" he howled in German, sticking his teeth out and fake crying, all while encouraging the participant to mimic him. 
I instantly thought of Buffalo Bill in "Silence of the Lambs", mocking his victim in the well by shrieking like a "woman", all while pulling his shirt into points to pretend he had boobs.

I decided that I could digest the rest of the information aurally. 

"I have the fourth grade nominee for the Poetry Slam" I announced.
"Who?" my co-worker asked, relieved.  She had made me select the kid that would represent the Spanish program, against my numerous protests.  I don't blame her; I consistently shove stuff like that off on her and needed to take my turn.
"Fulton Roberts".
"WHAT?" she asked, alarmed. 
I knew why.  The cognitive problems.  The attacks.  The glass eyes.  The social problems.

"He pretty much informed me he was going to do it.  And I was relieved.  It took me a minute to digest the idea, but when I did, well, I think it's going to be really cool.  I think it reflects what we're about...how much we teach, how diverse our student population is....that we celebrate everyone, not just the... not just the....."

"Shiny objects.  You're right, Hilary.  It is cool".

Friday, November 14, 2014

My friends

"You were right" my older faced child said randomly as he skipped down the stairs.  My friend who's eyes get wet sometimes.  My friend that was embarrassed when he farted in class.  My friend who often wears the same clothes to school day after day.  My sweet boy from the projects that I just want to protect and help and guide. 
"About what?"
"About that thing you said before, about Kimmie" Tyrone responded with a head nod and sideways tilt. He had a swagger to him.
"Oh my God!  You like her!  I knew it!"
Tyrone winked and nodded and ran down the stairs.
Fourth grade romance.  I am normally disgusted by such things, by Tyrone has exquisite taste.  Beautiful, smart Vietnamese girl with purple streaks in her hair that is nice to everyone.  A girl that is not from his neighborhood, culture, race or style-aesthetic, that he is charmed by and sees no reason why he shouldn't be.  

I like it.

I drove to school in the daylight. Since the time change, I can see the neighbors.  I watch for the woman in the hot pink bathrobe that stands outside of our district next to the busy road, making sure her kids get on the bus that goes to a place that is not as nice as mine.

The doorway and stairwell smelled like a big fart.  That was the last thing I was going to mention to my principal on a Monday morning.
"It smells like someone pooped in an air vent" Bailey said in passing.  
Oliver turned his head sideways and looked up at me, giggly smile on his face, which was about two inches from mine.
"Me gusta pollo" the first line of his Haiku read.
"Me gusta bistec" the third line of his Haiku read.
Oh but the middle line, the tricky one, the one with seven syllables.
"Oliver, tell me one type of food that makes you really happy".
"Ice cream.  Strawberry ice cream".
I counted the syllables.  Helado.  Helado me hace feliz.  Fuck.  Too many syllables.
"Okay, maybe a different food".
"Blood" he said flatly.
"Oliver, gross!"  his para-pro and I called out in unison.
He looked confused.
"Oliver, you are going to keep us up at night.  Eating blood!" I said, laughing.  His face turned upward a little more, with the giggle smile intact.
"Steak.  Steak makes me happy".
"Juicy.  It juicy.  Red."
"Oliver!  You like your steak red in the middle".
"Yes.  Wet.  It taste good".
"I'm sorry Oliver.  I didn't understand.  You like your steak with a little blood in the middle".
"Yes".
"It tastes good".
"Yes".
"I like mine that way too".

Tyrone was crying.
"So, I sat next to her in lunch, and I asked her if she wanted to be my friend.  She said no".
He shoved his face down, eyes flickering.

"She said no".

Saturday, November 1, 2014

La Gran Calabaza

Halloween.  Halloween!  Halloween on a Friday while working in an elementary school....
I entered my first class and made them describe their Halloween costumes in Spanish, then plugged in the Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin and switched the language to Spanish.  The kids laughed hearing Charlie Brown speak Spanish and sat mesmerized by the old cartoon.

I was really just killing some time until I took the kids to the author talk.  As we watched, I saw Oliver rise from the floor, his face starting to crumple.
"Oliver, what is wrong?"
He shook his head and sat back down, eyes fixed on the screen.
"Fourth grade, please come to the auditorium" the intercom called.
We lined up.
Oliver's face crumpled again as we passed the bathrooms.
"I peed myself, I peed myself," he said doggedly, shaking his head back and forth.
"I gotta go to bathroom".
He entered the auditorium a few minutes later, walking behind the author, his head still shaking. 
"I peed myself, I peed myself" he continued to repeat, sitting in front of me Indian style on the floor, crying slightly but more in a state of embarrassed frenzy.
"It's okay, Oliver, it's okay" I whispered, wanting to grab him and hug him but resisting, knowing that an action like that would only scare him more.
A male staff member walked with Oliver behind the author again and out of the room.
A few minutes later, Oliver returned, again walking behind the author with new pants on.
He was shaking his head, eyes wild and fixed on the ground, embarrassed and agitated.
"I  peed myself, I PEED MYSELF" he said again, eyes wide and eyebrows raised, hand extended with palm up while returning to sit on the floor. 
Even though he was cleaned up, he couldn't get past it.  He just could not deal with it. 
"Penis" he said gutturally, in a genuine frenzy.  The male staff member walked Oliver back behind the author and out of the room.
He did not return.

Hundreds of kids sat happily on the floor, watching and laughing and raising their hands when the author agreed to answer questions.  It was a wonderful visit, but my mind was on Oliver, wishing he could enjoy the things other kids liked.  A day devoid of the normal routine, filled with cartoons and author talks and descriptions of costumes helped keep most of the kids in-line on a difficult school day.  It had the opposite effect on Oliver, sending him into a confused panic. 

About a half an hour into the talk, I watched  several kids with impairments similar to Oliver's inch their way out of the cramped crowd of children on the floor and over to the area where the teachers sat uncluttered, each with several feet of uncrowded space around us. 

"I need more space" each child announced flatly, yet with piercing frenzied eyes, re-settling themselves in a clearing on the floor and staring back at the author, without laughing.