I've had a lot of time lately for reflection. When one has taught for any length of time, the world view is through the classroom lens. There is little outside of it, and all is because of it. When that changes unexpectedly as it has for me, time becomes a loose, gelatinous circular motion ebbing and flowing. Thoughts of the children I am missing every day pass through my mind leading to thoughts of children I have cared for in the past. Caregiving has essentially been the focus of my career for the past decade and more. Consistent caregiving routines, the thread binding the classroom together. And now... I write this from home. The kick to the head is healing on track, yet it is a very slow track. One that requires the patience and fortitude reserved previously for gloriously tantruming toddlers and stubborn four-year olds with carefully staged agendas of will and rigidity.
And so it goes. I wonder about them. My classroom. How it's running, how the children are faring in my absence. I wonder about my colleagues. How they are faring, how they are feeling, are they getting enough coffee and chocolate? I wonder about my brain. I am happy to hear that my progress is steady, and wonder how much fish oil is too much for reconnecting neurons. A slightly charming result of my brain injury, frequently mixing up words in sentences. "My air is dry and the hair is cold out." Yes, I said that yesterday without qualm. The kids would probably think it funny. And thinking about language makes me think about babies learning to walk, and talk, and make friends. One baby in particular actually. We can call her Magic for the purpose of this tale.
Magic was just over a year old in 2001, the year her parents adopted her from an orphanage in India and brought her home to New York City. She was one, but Magic looked like a very tall eight -month old. Her head was small, her eyes wide. Long limbs with poor muscle tone. Fragile, somewhat vacant and very clearly adored by her newly adopted parents who hoped the world for her. And so Magic was placed in my care, in my classroom. Some caregiving is intuitive, some is taught. I knew that I needed to wear her. I needed to hold this baby girl, and carry with me at all times. I only put her down to change her diaper. I even managed other children while holding on to her. She ate in my lap. She slept in my arms. And slowly but surely Magic? well she was Magic. Her affect started to change. She started to smile, to coo, to do things that typically developing babies do. She grew adorable cheeks and healthy rolls of fat on her legs. And one day, she walked. She stood up out of my lap and took her miraculous first steps. We applauded. And the only moment better than that was when her parents witnessed her walking for the first time a few weeks later at the school's Thanksgiving Potluck. I've rarely witnessed such joy as I saw on her mother's face as her daughter walked into her arms for the first time.
Magic learned to talk. She called me "Mimi", and liked to wear my ridiculously fancy shoes around the classroom. She made friends. And when she was much older I saw her at a New Years Day party in Manhattan. She may have been seven or eight. I hadn't seen her since she was three. Magic stared at me for about forty minutes intently across the room. She crossed over to me, and without a word sat in my lap pulling my arms around her waist. Magic didn't move for the next half hour.
And that my friends is the reason why. I likely will never know if in that moment Magic's memory of me was cognitive or if it was an instinctual muscle memory guiding her into my lap. But it doesn't really matter does it... What matters most are these moments of care and connectedness. The thoughts we all have in which we hold each other and our loved ones dear. It's the stuff that healing is made of.
Grown to mammoth height
Against my chest
Into the world beyond