Teacher's Diary, Children's Medical Center - Dallas, TX
These kids may be sick, but if God dances to children's laughter his favorite radio channel is this classroom.
Instead of saying hi or shaking my hand, five-year-old Peter introduced himself by walking into class, putting his index finger firmly on my left middle finger and proclaiming, This is the bad one. And no matter what big kids say, giving the finger is not the same as lending a helping hand.
This place is tougher than I thought.
Nap time was a disaster. Instead of sleeping, the kids mimicked soldiers by crawling under desks in the dark. Apparently, giggles double as camouflage for five year olds.
Also, Peter's best friend Jason got sick, threw up on his desk and cried. I asked him how old he was (to take his mind off of the embarrassment). He proudly answered, Six, by showing me one whole hand and the middle finger of the other. I see a pattern emerging.
Sleeping meds alleviated difficulties with nap time.
Annie ran into class this morning wearing Mrs. Johnson's wig on her head. I never thought a proper, southern lady that old could run so fast. When I accidentally said crap in front of the kids, a couple of them lit up like I had shown them a treasure map. Even Jason brightened for a smile.
Note to self: A chocolate chip cookie and tiny carton of milk put the children to sleep when medication isn't available.
I found Peter and Katie playing, You show me yours. I’ll show you mine. I walked up as Peter pointed at her waist, From the crack, it looks like you broke yours off. They tried to convince me it was okay because they were married. I giggled so unexpectedly, I think a miracle came out.
Jason was absent for the fourth day in a row. Katie hasn't returned for a week and a half. I'm starting to worry.
This was the hardest day yet.
The kids found out that Katie isn't coming back to class. Peter acted worse than usual. He even stripped down, stood on top of the middle table in the class and demanded an extra cookie or Stephanie gets the sprinkler treatment.
Jason came back from being sick for a week wearing his family's war medals on his shirt. He tells everyone, My grandpa died in Vietnam. And my daddy got a purple heart in Iraq. I don’t think my family is very good at war, but I’m fighting hard as I can against cancer.
Brushing away tears is a salute.
This poem originally appeared in Yellow Mama and is included in The Mattress Parlor (Scribble Fire Press, 2011).