Some Kid

Dear Little One,

Yesterday I finished reading “Charlotte’s Web” to you.  The sad part of the book was approaching and I wrestled the lump in my throat until it sat low where it could not possibly escape.  It matters little that I read this book every year, E.B. White’s writing gets me every single time.  I loved this book as a kid and, if it’s possible, I love it even more as an adult.

I was doing a fine job of keeping that lump down and my eyes were only watering a little bit as I read about Wilbur leaving Charlotte to die alone.  Hang on a sec, I just need to stop typing and get a tissue.  Ahem. Anyway, I was doing a decent job of keeping things under control until I heard a sob from your direction.  I looked over and saw tears dribbling from your brown eyes, down your cheeks, and onto your desk.  In a quivering voice you said, “It’s just so sad, Mrs. McCauley, it’s just so sad.”  I could not agree more, Little One.  You got up to get a tissue and several girls followed, dabbing at their eyes.  The little boys wiped their eyes on shirtsleeves and for a minute we just sat there in our sadness.  I waited, pushing that lump back down, brushing my tears away with my fingertips.  I waited until we were all done blowing our noses and wiping our eyes.  And then I read on until we reached the happy end when the spiderlings hatch and life renews itself.  We talked about the book and moved on with our afternoon, but you were too sad to sing, too sad to do math, too sad to read any other books.  You put your head down and I rubbed your back when I walked by your desk.  Later you took out your notebook and drew spider webs.

Today we watched the movie Charlotte’s Web.  Before we watched it, we talked about how it’s okay to cry when you’re sad.  You and some of the others pulled out wads of tissue before the movie began.  And just in case I needed it, you stuffed a tissue in my hand, too.  The movie made us laugh and cry.  And it was good.  During the movie, you wrote in your notebook.  You wrote about how much you love Charlotte.  You drew her dangling from her web and told me about how she still lives in your heart.

Little One, I love that you wear your heart on your sleeve.  I love that you are moved by the written word.  I love that you work your sadness out with a pencil and paper.  To paraphrase a certain spider, you are some kid.  Long after you leave first grade, long after you graduate high school, long after you raise children of your own, I will remember this day because you, Little One, will still live in my heart.


Mrs. McCauley

Pouring Eyes

This week I started reading “Charlotte’s Web” to my class.  Year after year I marvel at E.B. White’s word choice.  His phrasing leaves me in awe.  It’s so rich that I often stop and read sentences over again, savoring the words like a lump of dark chocolate on my tongue.

From a young age I’ve been a collector of words.  I’m constantly listening for snippets of interesting conversation.  My ears stand at attention for striking word combinations.  A plastic spelling trophy along with stacks of journals brimming with angst filled teenage poetry are evidence of my history as a wordie.

I delight in helping my students collect and add words to their budding writing arsenal.  A couple of days ago, I was discussing Charlotte’s Web with one student in particular.  She was hopping around, sheets of sunset colored hair bouncing, telling me how excited she was to read the book because the movie was so good.  I prepared to launch into my creed on why the book is always better than the movie and how if she liked the movie, then she’ll love the book, etc., when this little pixie left me speechless.

The day before a huge storm had rolled in.  It was the kind of storm with lightning that razors the sky in two, the kind of storm with raindrops that smash against windowpanes, the kind of storm that requires me to turn the lights low and read “Thundercake” by Patricia Polacco.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of reading anything Patricia Polacco’s put on paper, then you know you are in the presence of a magician who turns letters into words into phrases that leave me begging for more.

The storm and the book inspired a torrent of weather poetry in Writers’ Workshop.  Words like poured and rumbled and struck fell out of their mouths onto the pages.  It was delicious.

So as I took a deep breath to deliver my sermon on books vs. movies, this little girl stopped bouncing and from behind her auburn tresses said

I loved the movie because it was such a good story it made my eyes pour.

And there it was.

It made my eyes pour.

My ears pricked up at her poignant pairing of words.

This six-year-old reached back into our weather words, grabbed one out, pitched it into another context, and encapsulated just the right emotion.

She assures me she won’t cry during the book because she already knows it’s sad.  Me?  I make no such claim.  E.B. White’s stunning writing has caused me to brush away more than a tear or two, mostly when his words slowly begin appearing in the writing of my young wordies.