These Faces

Did I ever see my children
as these faces I see now
My eyes periscope across the ocean of manila brown desks
I’m thinking many thoughts
especially how to remain afloat today
and not sink like a sub
The endless falsetto voices lost in the banter of youth
are not affected by the tepid grey tile and dull institutional cinder block
as am I
On these first days
when teachers gaze across that sea of bright, clear eyes
do they see my children
as I see them
Not evaluating as an instructor
but visualizing with the hopeful heart of a parent
I wonder

Max and Caroline

Max and Caroline

painted oh, so long ago

In my six years as a substitute teacher for all grade levels, just about every teacher I’ve had the honor of working with goes above and beyond what is expected, in an ever changing educational environment. Teachers are a compassionate group. Many educators’ patience is wider than an ocean of manila brown desks.

A Crime of Crayons

A Crayon Crime

It seemed in 1973 everyone in school had 64 crayons – everyone – except me. On the day in question, desperation had clouded my judgement. It had corrupted my creative sensibility. I was ten at the time and in dire need of 64 colors. I had Crayola’s 24 pack which included colors for growing robust apple trees, fluid blue skies and abstract butterflies. It wasn’t enough. I needed more pigment. I coveted the built-in sharpener too.

Crayola BoxOne day while shopping with my mother and 2 other siblings, fate waxing at my feet, divine intervention struck. On this ominous morning, I glanced down at the beige store tiles. My disbelieving eyes engaged my sleeping brain. My little fingers snatched up the crumpled dollar on the floor. Much to my horror I discovered it was one-half of a paper dollar, and the other half was nowhere in sight. Nothing mattered. My heart was jolting in 64 magnificent colors. My brain was a prism of planning. “Art cannot be stopped,” my greying conscience defended. While Mom busied herself shopping and shepherding my two younger siblings around cans of tomatoes, I cleverly rolled the dollar into a cylinder.

There wasn’t much time. Grocery cart loading for a family of eight was nearly done. I told Mom I needed the bathroom. I flew to the school supply section, grabbed Crayola’s 64 box then sprinted to the register hoping to make an express purchase. I handed the masterfully rolled dollar to a young cashier. I didn’t know how much the crayons cost and I didn’t wait. I grabbed my fabulous box and bolted toward the exit doors.

In hindsight, I should’ve selected the silver-haired cashier. The swift employee ran after me as did my mother. My crime was foiled on the spot. I had to return the crayons. I had to write a letter of apology. And, I was grounded.

So there I was stuck in my room with just 24 crayons and two weeks to think about all the colors I didn’t have.
Crayon Crime

Death of an Ancient One

As a kid, I found any morning walk to my bus stop after a heavy rain daunting. Neither me or my earthworm friends were very happy. I couldn’t bear to watch the endless sea of pinkish-brown bodies wriggling on the wet blacktop. Whenever this upsetting scene accosted my eyes, my inner-tomboy morphed into a worm-plucking machine. Running in a serpentine pattern, I’d grab as many worms as my little hands could carry. Then onto the nearest lawn went the hapless earthworms. I’d continue saving worms until the bus arrived. Once seated, I’d wipe my dirty hands on my navy-blue knee socks so the nuns couldn’t think I’d been digging for the devil.

I don’t save earthworms much these days. I’d like to think that over the last forty years their little earthworm brains have evolved and they’re better equipped at saving themselves. I’ve since taken up offering roadside assistance to bewildered dogs. To prepare myself for this challenge, a nylon leash is stowed in my car and I watch The Dog Whisperer, whenever I can. To date I’m happy to report-I’ve reunited several lost pooches with their owners (though one little dog with oddly big teeth scared the crap out of me).

Bringing me to the reptile saving. A few years back there was an incident which compels me to save turtles for the rest of my life. I learned a terrible, horrible and valuable lesson. Every spring where I live many turtles venture out onto the road. While driving the tank, if I happen to spy a slow-moving shell I pull over and return the turtle to safety.

On this particular spring day several years ago, I’d been rushing to collect the big son (who was much smaller at the time) from elementary school. We had to find a birthday gift then get to a party. On the way to his school, a large snapping turtle – the kind that live 150 years – was making his way across the road. He was better than halfway and the road was not heavily trafficked. A fleeting thought entered my mind, “Pull the car over and make sure the turtle gets across.” Followed by the next fleeting thought, “No time. Everyone will see that giant turtle. It’s impossible not too. He’ll be fine.” I continued on my journey feeling nary a twinge of guilt. I picked up the big son and we proceeded to Target.

On the return ride, my jaw dropped open, my mouth hung agape. I was in disbelief. The huge, ancient, beautiful turtle didn’t make it across the road. I was broken-hearted but the guilt was far worse. I vowed from that day forward, much to the giant husband’s chagrin, to save every single turtle or reptile, no matter the time, place or situation.

I will admit that picking up and carrying that giant snapping turtle last year was not very smart, but the darn thing wasn’t moving fast enough and I had to help him cross the road.

turtle head/Prisma

turtle head/Prisma