Friday, December 14, 2012

Ducks



Dear Meazi,

My alarm went off at 5:40 this morning. I wanted to make sure we had enough time to have a proper breakfast before your violin concert this morning. You dressed in a darling red Christmas dress your nana bought you last year. You wore shiny black Mary Jane’s that your good friend Yene passed down to you, and brand new white bobby socks. You looked a little like Norman Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges, skinny legs, braids pulled back, face scrubbed clean, a determined stride in your step. You did very well. You stood behind a pretty tall girl so it was hard to see you, but I saw your bow move gracefully back and forth. After your three songs were over, you moved your head so that you could find us in the audience. Your father, Melese, and I were in the front row. You spotted us and burst into a big wide grin. You were proud. So were we. You handed me your violin case and hurried off to be with the rest of your classmates. You didn’t want to miss PE. Daddy, Melese, and I left your school. Daddy got into his truck and went to work. Melese and I drove to his school.



Dear Melese,

 Today was your last day of school before the holidays. We arrived late and immediately joined the other preschoolers for some songs. They had you and a few other kiddos stand up so they could sing you Happy Birthday. As a New Year’s baby the wanted to make sure they got a chance to wish you a good one. Afterwards I walked you back to your classroom and kissed you goodbye. I went to the restaurant next door to have a cup of coffee and to catch up on some e-mail. I opened my computer and read about the shooting in Connecticut. Tears rolled down my face as I glanced across to the play yard where I knew you were safely playing. A little while later, I packed up my things and walked back to your school. I found you stacking milk crates outside with your most favorite friend. I walked back into your classroom and took a spot on the circle rug anticipating the goodbye meeting that would start in just a few minutes. A classmate’s little brother sat next to me, a two–year old who is so, so, so ready to be in school like his big brother. His mom had just removed his sandy, muddy, socks, clues that he had enjoyed another Friday community day with his big brother. I couldn’t stop staring at his tiny toes. My eyes welled up as I thought about all of the murdered kindergartners in Connecticut and all of those tiny, tiny toes. Kahlil Gibran’s words flashed in my head, ‘Your children are not your children’. I thought about how none of you belong to any of us, and about how all of you belong to all of us, and about how as parents we are responsible for the caring of all of the children within  our reach, should they need us. I grabbed your classmate’s brother’s tiny pink toe. I couldn’t help myself. I smiled at him and he leaned his head toward my shoulder smiling. His mom stood behind us, busy breastfeeding the newest addition to their family, boy number three.  On the rug in the next spot over was the darling blonde girl who always wore sparkly shoes. Today was her very last day. Her family decided to move to Seattle and they wouldn’t be returning in the New Year. Then you finally ran in Melese. You plopped down in my lap and grabbed my hand. Your hand was freezing from being outside all morning. I put my cheek on yours. I opened my oversized sweater and wrapped your body in with mine. I took a breath and knew you were safe for at least this one deep breath.  The teachers began the songs. Your school has a no cell phone rule. I am almost certain your teachers hadn’t heard about the shooting yet. They began this song:



Five little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
"Quack, quack, quack, quack."
But only four little ducks came back.

Four little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
"Quack, quack, quack, quack."
But only three little ducks came back.

Three little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
"Quack, quack, quack, quack."
But only two little ducks came back.

Two little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
"Quack, quack, quack, quack."
But only one little duck came back.

One little duck
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
"Quack, quack, quack, quack."
But none of the five little ducks came back.

Sad mother duck
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
The sad mother duck said
"Quack, quack, quack."
And all of the five little ducks came back.





I held you close as we sang with your friends. I scanned the room, taking in the faces of these children, their parents and your teachers. I tried not to cry.



On our way home I positioned the rear view mirror so that I could just see you. I wasn’t letting you out of my sight. At home I gave you whatever you asked for. First those Annie’s shells with cheese, the ones in the purple box you call bunny mac, and then the giant piece of candy cane I had been disallowing all week. “Take it, please,” I said. “Eat it up.” We opened a huge package. It was party stuff for your ‘Dolphin’ birthday party. You said dolphins were beautiful and that that is why you wanted them for your party. “Ok,” we said. You stacked the plates, and cups, and picked up a party favor and said, “This one is for William.” William is the friend you love the most.



We left to get Meazi. When they finally called her name in the carpool line, I began to cry again. I couldn’t wait to see her. She bounded down the stairs and ran to the car. “What took you so long mom? I was the last second grader waiting.” “I’m sorry,” I said. Melese, you turned to her and said, “Meazi, I ate your peppermint. The big one.” I had forgotten that was Meazi’s piece. She burst into tears. I think she was upset about the candy, but it was also Friday afternoon and she is always exhausted on Fridays at 3:30. I reached my hand back and put it inside her new bobby sock. 

I drove home like that, you, Melese, in my rear view, and you, Meazi, with my fingers on your ankle.  I drove carefully and graciously, for a change.



I brought you both in. Meazi you cried again when you found the minuscule scrap of peppermint your brother left you. I made you both hot cocoas. As you put your lunch box in the kitchen I couldn’t help but think about all of those moms and dads and loved ones cleaning out the lunchboxes of children they would never see again.



Ducks that didn’t come back.



How will we keep our ducks safe?  Our violinists and dolphin lovers? Our ballerinas and baseball players?  All of our ducks?

How will we do it?



19 comments:

  1. Oh Julie. Today, at noon I read a story to Aberash's class. A room full of 18 ducks. Smiling and asking me questions and calling me Aberash's mom. I left her school like I always do, loving it and the community of teachers and kiddos in it. I was so happy. And then I hear on the news, the story of CT. And it all goes black. I don't know how we'll do it. It seems impossible to me right now. A friend wrote to me tonight "And we thought 9/11 took away our nation's innocence...where do we go now?"
    I just don't know. All I know is I will be snuggled up tight to one kid and keeping the other teen as close as I can.

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  2. When I let my little Kindergartens out today, I could hardly contain myself. As I watched them go to their parents, I shut the door and started sobbing. We had a busy craft day where all the kids, including my kindie class were off throughout the school working in other rooms with their big buddies, making things, laughing, singing songs. I was freed up to move between classes and help where needed. I got a text telling me what had happened. I went on cnn on my phone and was horrified. I went from room to room, giving my own boys hugs and kisses, and finding each student and putting my hand on their shoulders and even the occasional hug. It was so awful. I looked at all the parents there, helping, but wondered about our school's safety. We were all trusting that each teacher knew the adults in their room, but they were all over the school. How would we know if any of them were strangers? We wouldn't. A mom caught my eye. She had been looking at her phone in the hallway. She had tears in her eyes. So did I. We exchanged knowing glances, determined not to talk of the horror lest children hear us. I am still unsure of how to deal with this...as a mom and as a teacher. It's such a terrible, terrible loss.

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  3. Oh Julie...our beautiful ducks.

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  4. I picked up my little one early today because he "needed" a haircut and we had to beat the rush. I watched him get his head sheared and the barber, in his heavy Italian accent pointed to the radio and asked, ' You heard?' I said, "yes."

    And he changed the channel to classical music and we listened while my little one tried to knock over his Christmas tree. And our heads were so elsewhere.

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  5. The lunch boxes...I thought about that, too. The backpacks and the lunch boxes and the Christmas presents. What on earth will they do with the Christmas presents? Meant for joy and now, I don't even know. I just don't even know.

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  6. Oh, those ducks. Beautifully said, J.

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  7. I cried waiting for my DDs school bus. I had great difficulty holding back tears when she came off the bus and I just hugged her, right there on the busy street we live on.
    I have no words for the pain those families must now endure.

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  8. I have never read anything so beautiful and touching. Thank you.

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  9. A beautiful post. Not just as a teacher and a future parent but as a citizen of this world... this is my worst nightmare. If we can't stop the guns, how can we protect out ducks?

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  10. I don't know how you got through the duck song without crying.
    We cannot keep them safe. We can keep them safer.

    Thanks for writing this. It is amazing.

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  11. Beautiful post. I cried throughout the weekend too... Maeve is tired of me giving her hugs and kisses.

    Getting rid of the guns is a start....

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  12. Wonderfully written and so heartbreaking.

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  13. Oh Julie, this was so beautiful. Thank you. The mama of the little guy I watch called in the afternoon and said "please don't listen to NPR today". WE had discovered only the day before that he is listening along with us and understanding some of what is happening in the world. We did not want him to understand or even BEGIN to understand this tragedy. Warm , safe thoughts to you and your family.

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  14. Beautifully said and felt. Loved this post. I am still so heartbroken over it all. I too am extra sensitive and careful in my interactions with children now. Their beauty shines.

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