Friday was our school wide reading program finale. The finale was a series of races and games. There were jump rope relays, basketball relays, soccer relays, minute to win it games, hula hoop contests, scoot board races and a host of other challenges for my little ones to participate in. It was a scream! There were times when I was doubled over, laughing so hard that I was crying. Balls were escaping, jump ropes were tangling, and all the while the first graders were clapping and cheering with abandon.
|Opiyo Chris (Photo courtesy of Colin Higbee)|
|image courtesy of corleymay.com|
This week I’m thankful for…
- spin class
- my Ugandan friend in Redding
- messages from my students in Uganda
- Susan Wooldridge’s poetry workshop
- my outdoor living room
- Redding French bakery extra sourdough bread
- homemade challah & the friend who made it
- dragonfly lights for my patio
- field trips with my class
“I don’t have a middle initial,” she tries to submit the form, but the computer highlights in red her namelessness.
I feel her begin to crawl up into herself, chameleoning into my couch.
“Shouldn’t I have a middle name?” she asks.
“Not everyone has one,” I try to make this unnamed middle a smaller absence.
But it is there.
This shadow always creeping across her face.
This unbuoyed business of being unclaimed.
I think of names for her, this blazing star so terrified of burning everyone else.
“You could choose a middle name,” I say, cursing the computer and that damn red box.
“What’s your middle name?” she asks.
“Like a wheel?” she laughs.
“Sort of,” I smile. “It was my maiden name and I kept it because I wanted to remain linked to my brothers.”
“What do I want?” Her question is pregnant with wanting.
I hold my breath. She’s not asking me.
“Love. My middle name will be Love.” She types an “L” and submits the form for college. “What do you think?” she asks.
“It’s perfect. But then again, what do I know? My Acholi name means ‘Laughter’,” I shrug.
“Love and laughter,” she relaxes into the herself.
“Love and laughter then,” I squeeze her hand and we giggle.
You fold your matchstick arms, one atop the other,
The sun is a token of yellow,
Glinting through the window behind you,
Playing off the filaments of your skin,
The skin of my soldier boys.
You twist the straw wrapper,
Threading it through your fingers,
Then crumpling it in your fist, which contains your story.
I choose to take another bite, the avocado slippery on my tongue.
“How do I unscrew you?” I think.
“How do I unfold you?”
You who have determined to occupy so little space.
I think of you,
Tucking yourself under the pews at church,
Until the parishioners left and you slept there alone,
Notched in the arms of God.
I wait for you.
I wait with you.
You slough off your shell.
And tell me about the father who sold you,
And your mother who let him.
You walk a tightrope between telling and keeping,
I hold onto your silence,
Watch the landscape of your face,
Marvel at your eyes, still white, still lit.
You tell me about being a slave at the age of ten,
And of the man who tried to undo your silver straps.
But the worst of it all
Is the family who rescued you,
Called you Princess,
And then poured it all out and sent you back.
You say to me, “I think I must be hard to love.”
With bravery trickling down your face, you whisper,
“It is hard for me to love.”
I nod. I know this difficulty of loving and being loved,
The exquisite risk of allowing myself to be loved.
We sit across from each other,
Two so hard to be loved.
And somewhere on the table,
Between lunch plates and crumbs,
Love has joined us.