so i've told you that my mother has taken up substitute teaching in her retirement.
this year, she was a long term sub for a particular elementary school, and came to know many of the children quite well.
on friday, she was subbing for an art class, and the assignment was to make mother's day cards.
(to be clear, this is the kind of thing i would have thought absolutely nothing of, two lifetimes ago. but former teacher me cringes at all the assumptions that
are built into an assignment like this.)
my mother hands out all the materials the teacher had left, and settles down o watch the kids go about their tasks. she walks between the tables commenting here and there, but for the most part, just watches the kids color.
she notices one table in particular, where "emmett", this typically reserved, quiet boy, is garnering a good deal of attention. my mother told me that usually emmett hangs by himself, and that there have been several recesses where he's chosen to simply hang out with her.
but on this day, the kids at the table are actively talking to him and pointing to his card and laughing. at first my mother was worried that they might be teasing him (my mama has turned into bully patrolwoman #1, this year), but saw that emmett was coyly laughing, too.
and this made her even more curious. so she got up, walked over to the table, and peered over his shoulder. on the front of the card, emmett had written, "happy mother's day." but on the INSIDE of the card, he'd scribbled, "i hate you as much as you hate me."
she said that she was alarmed (seriously, i can't even imagine). but she didn't want to make a big deal out of it. so she was like, "well, emmett. ms. ____ wanted you guys to make these for your moms. are you sure this is what you want to do?" emmett timidly nodded a "yes."
and my mama was like, "okay." but she went back to her desk and got another piece of cardstock and slid it under his arm and whispered, "just in case."
after class was over, she was still a bit shook up by the whole thing. emmett had seemed fine, but my mom considered his typically withdrawn nature and wanted to follow up just to be sure. she went and got another teacher who knew him and relayed the story. then they both
sent for emmett. my mom stood quietly by as the second teacher very gently asked emmett what he'd written on the card. the teacher made certain to assure him that he wasn't in any trouble--she told him she just wanted to see if he wanted to make another card.
emmett insisted that he didn't. the teacher then asked, "emmett, do you mean the things you wrote in your card?" and emmett nodded "yes." the teacher asked, "do you think you hate your mom maybe just in this moment? that maybe in a few days you won't?"
and emmett slowly shook his head "no." the teacher then asked, "why do you hate your mom, emmett?" and my mama said he looked down and quietly said, "b/c she hates me."
my mom had been biding her silence throughout the entire exchange, but in that moment was just overcome. she looked at the boy and said, "come here, emmett," and emmett slowly walked over to her.
at this point in the story, you should know that I'M readying my mouth to say ALL KINDS OF corrective things to my mama based on my own teaching life, and the hippy dippy shit i do now. like, i'm fixin to drop an SEL BOMB on my mama....b/c i am CERTAIN she's about to tell me
she did some preachy, black shit...
but when emmett reached her, she bent down to meet him, and said, "you know that *i* love you, right?"
and the boy nodded his head and threw himself into her arms....
and they stayed like that for a while, emmett hugging tightly at my mama, my mama willing her own heart not to break, until the child seemed okay enough to be on his own.
and then my mom left to get back to another class.
when my mom told me this story, i sat looking at her in ASTONISHMENT. i honestly could NOT believe my mother hadn't lectured this kid on every mother loving her child and blah blah blah...
but she looked at me and shrugged. "i don't know what goes on in that boy's house.
i don't know his mother. who am i to say anything is different from exactly what he told me? it's awful he feels that way. it's even more awful if he's right. but what was important at that moment was for him to know that somebody loved him even if his mama didn't."
over the years, there have been a MILLLLLLLLLION days where my life has been too complicated for me to even confront, or too raw for me to walk through, or too tight a space for me to even properly breathe in.
and, though i am LOATH to admit it (Lord knows i am)--
twitter has provided me a place to forget about the bad stuff going on, if only for a moment.
i know today is gross for a lot of ppl....i get that.
if it is gross for you, i HOPE that there is someone there to hug you and tell you that they love you.....
b/c i do.
and i'm grateful for you.
You can follow @metroadlib.