Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Touching Story

Part and parcel of the summer schedule at the J's is RJ2's month-long+ tenure in Extended School Year, or ESY. One of the things we discovered early on in her school career is that she needs to keep school in her blood so she doesn't forget what it's like to be at school. Generally successful. This year, challenging. Mondays--especially challenging.

Yesterday was no exception, as RJ2 struggled to accomplish her work. The weekly Monday reports from the teacher were not encouraging and difficult to hear time and time again upon dismissal time in the school's front lobby. "We'll try again tomorrow," is what RJ2 often says on days when she knows she hasn't been at her best. Her aide sighs a smile, as do I.

[It was all I could do not to lose it laughing in the hallway a week or so ago when RJ2 flew into her classroom announcing in her biggest voice, "I'M STILL HERE!" Oh, what her teacher and aide were thinking....]

Today, RJ2 started with a great morning at home. "I feel happy!" she said. She dialogued about everything she saw on the way to her room. Everything suggested today would not be Monday.

At the end of the class time, I met RJ2 at the front lobby, as usual. The teacher was speaking with the mom of another student. I waited my turn for the update. The front door opened, and another mom came in with her preschool-aged son, who was to begin his ESY morning.

He looked unsettled and became increasingly agitated, starting to cry. His mother suggested going back outside, perhaps to calm down. I understood this picture all too well. Something would have to change soon or this child was going to have a lobby meltdown. He rejected his mom's thought to go out, pacing the floor with his little steps.

"Are you looking for Ms. R.?" she said to him.

Ms. R. is one of the ESY preschool aides, who just happened to be a helper in RJ2's preschool classroom back in the day, and still makes an appearance every now and again at our school. I knew she was in the building, but she hadn't made it up to the lobby yet. Then, it happened.

A little hand, much like this one, squirmed its way into mine. Soon following was a sweet face looking up at me.

Uh, oh!

Honestly, it was the cutest thing ever! Brought back a flood of memories of tiny fingers coming out of a chubby, warm grip. But, reality snapped shut the flashbacks, and I thought, "Now, what do I do?" He had no plans to let go.

I'm still not sure if he thought I was Ms. R., but he seemed to think I could help--which, actually, I could.

"I'm not Ms. R. Ms. R's class must not be done yet. Do you want to go find her?"

He pulled a little harder on my hand and we started walking down the hallway. I didn't think until later that I hadn't eyed his mom to check for her OK. She didn't say anything, but followed right behind us with his backpack. And that 'us' grew to be four.

"Can I hold your hand?" piped up RJ2, grabbing what was left of his open left hand, as he was already holding a box full of multi-colored pencil-top erasers.

We walked three abreast down the hallway--with mom behind us--toward the classrooms. Immediately upon leaving the lobby, I saw Ms. R. at the other end of the hall, bringing up students who had finished their ESY day. Ms. R. stopped and stooped to check out our new friend's little face, which then looked up at me a little confused. "Here's Ms. R!" I affirmed. He collected his backpack from mom and looked ready to get on with his morning, relieved.

"[RJ2] had a great day today," said RJ2's teacher, who ended up being the fifth member of the hallway entourage, passing us by, but giving me the good news.

"[RJ2] has been a great help," said the little boy's mom.

We left the school lobby and headed out to the crosswalk. "The boy was a little bit nervous, so I held his hand," said RJ2. I told her that she did a really good thing. "He was a little bit nervous, so, he needs to use his words. Or, he needs to hold a hand, right, Mom?"

This is one of those stories I won't mind her remembering and repeating, and recreating....

Photo: cheeseandtoast.com

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