The other day I found this bookmark and pin in with a bag of vintage zippers I'd bought for 99 cents at Goodwill a year or so ago. The zippers I've since sold on ebay for no more than I paid for them, but I kept the pin and the bookmark. I've always rather liked the message in the serenity prayer. Serenity has yet to come to me, but those kids Paul and Lisa give me gifts of courage and wisdom every day.
Paul and I sit side by side in the sandbox. Sometimes we sit in the sand but more often he sits in a white plastic Adirondack chair and I sit in a blue classroom chair. We sit with our backs to the parking lot so we can look out over the playground. The rest of the kids play. We talk.
"What do you want to talk about?" Paul asks.
"Let's talk about rocks," I answer.
"No, let's talk about squirrels."
"OK," I say, thinking of something I learned in a workshop a few weeks ago. Why do kids ask you questions? Because they want to hear you talk. So I talk. "When I lived in Illinois," I begin, "we had a big maple tree in the front yard. One spring a mommy squirrel came to live in the tree and pretty soon she had three baby squirrels. And the baby squirrels would come out in the yard and run around and play and they were really fun to watch."
"Now it's my turn," Paul says. "I have a squirrel at home. His name is Rocky and he plays in the yard. Now it's your turn."
"Do you know about that squirrel named Rocky who has a friend named Bullwinkle?"
"No. Let's talk about parrots."
"OK. Once I went to a pet store that had a parrot who was born in 1915. His name was Birdo and he was really grouchy and he bit you if you got too close to him."
"Now it's my turn. I have a parrot at home. His name is Rocko. He bites."
We sit and watch the other children build sandcastles and dig tunnels, pretending to be Tinkerbell and Wendy and Peter Pan. Paul says, "I have an elephant at my home. His name is Rocko."
"I have an elephant at my home, too," I say. "His name is Financial Crisis."
I fasten the pin to my Tshirt before school on Monday morning. I'm still feeling overwhelmed, under-rested from the weekend. Lisa zigzags out onto the playground. She's got a distinctive, ramshackle run. She hugs my knees and I kneel to talk to her.
She fingers the butterfly near my collar. "Your pin sure is beautiful, isn't it?"
"Thank you," I say. "I like it too."
She hugs me again. When she lets go and zigzags away, I hear a sound like coins hitting the concrete. When I look down, I see the pin and its clasp there on the ground. I'm muttering to myself as I pick them up, investigate the clasp, discover it's completely useless, but try to pin the butterfly back to my shirt anyway. That's when I discover the little hole there in my t-shirt---one of my favorites, the pink one with the brown marbling---and I say, "Oh, great!" in that sarcastic voice even a three-year-old can recognize.
"What'sa matter, Miss Becky?" Lisa says.
"Oh, my pin left a hole in my favorite t-shirt." I'm practically whining.
"That's OK, Miss Becky," Lisa says, dancing away. "You can still be people's teacher."