Monday, February 29, 2016

The Accidental Milkshakes at Brookside Elementary

I stood before the six graders taking attendance,
recognizing many names. When I finished a strapping
twelve year old lad asked me, "Aren't you the sub
who gave us milkshakes in kindergarten?"
I looked closely at Jacob's face and as I did the
strangest thing happened. His jawbone shrank and
his face became round and his two front teeth were missing.
I was now standing in front of the kindergarteners in
the class of Liz Travis giving sacks of sugar cones
to her helpers to pass out to the rest of the class.
I had just read, "Who Invented the Ice Cream Cone?"
and Liz had left ice cream in the freezer to celebrate
the birthday of the ice cream cone.
I called the first table group up front,
opened the box, and to my horror it had melted.
How could it melt in a half hour?!
"Class, I'm afraid it has melted so we can't
have ice cream cones." I announced.
An uproar met my ears as the twenty-six students
revolted against the skipping of ice cream cones.
"One two, eyes on you!" I shouted!
"One two three, eyes on ME!"
Near silence with low grumbling ensued and I said,
"We will have to suffer through MILKSHAKES!"
A cheer went up and I carefully poured the
blobs into the cups to the delight of the children.
Seven years later, twelve year old Jacob's jawline
stretched out and I could see his teeth had finally
grown in and he held the promise of a teenager before too long.
"Why, yes Jacob, that was me, I'd forgotten all about that."

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

500 Black People and Me

The tiny braid-covered heads slowly rose
above the back of the pew in front of me.
The girls couldn't have been more than four and six
and their jaws dropped open at the sight of me.
Their adorable astonished faces were highlighted
by their wide inquisitive eyes.
I had the distinct feeling they had never seen a white person.
My flight attendant school friend Irving blended right in
but as I gazed over the hundreds of well-groomed heads and
fancy floral hats I noticed I was the only white person
at church that morning.
Irving and I had felt homesick after four weeks of living
at the Houston Intercontinental Airport Sheraton hotel
and our darling black doorman, Stacey, gave us directions to his church.
We drove my hot red & black Camaro endlessly until
we arrived at a large white church on the outskirts of Houston.
Irving and I sang and prayed along with the flock and
I noticed two adult choirs, a teen choir and a children's choir
who were accompanied by an orchestra, blues band,
rock band or brass only band at various times.
As the adult gospel choir revved up with the band
part of our swaying flock began to faint.
Well-built nurses in white drifted down the aisles with smelling salts
and revived those slumped in the pews as the hymmn
reached a fever pitch I had never known.
After an hour of singing and praying the minister began
his sermon. He was of medium height and weight but the way he
carried himself and spoke the word of god began to bring down the house.
Shouts of, "Amen!" rang through the air and more fainting began.
Filled with awe of the spirit and in fear of damnation,
I glanced at my watch and realized another hour had passed.
I whispered to the lady next to me and asked her when the service ended
and she replied, "We're just getting started. We break for lunch at two
and begin again at four."
I tapped Irving's arm and pointed to my watch. He made a covert
motion at the door and when we all jumped to our feet to sing,
he and I slipped out the door.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Libraryless Librarian

I pushed my little cart down the hall very slowly.
With fifty books in precarious stacks I felt
like the little old lady on the Hogwarts Express.
"Anything from the cart?" I said to myself in
my old lady fake British accent.
Only instead of chocolate frogs I had new books.
I had panicked in September when I had not
been hired anywhere for a librarian job.
I had resigned from  Elizabeth Blackwell elementary
because of the traffic. How smug I had been.
How certain that with two year's experience I
would get snapped up in a jiffy.
Right when I was ready to spiral into jobless depression
I saw a librarian job posted in Shoreline school district.
When I went to the interview, the director, Chrisy, said
"This is a bit of an unusual job because
we have no library. You'll teach the lessons
in the rooms and walk the kids to the Meridian Park
library in the other side of the building for check out."
Hmmm. That sounded fine except there were no books
for the middle school students IN that library.
Cascade K-8 had started as a tiny one hundred student
alternative school without a library forty years ago.
Now all they had was broom closet with
a few hundred old paperbacks,
mostly donated by one of the teachers.
I nearly cried for my students the first time I saw it.
So, I did what any librarian worth her salt
would do and had a book fair to raise funds
for middle school books.
Now the proceeds, fifty new middle school books,
shifted slightly as I rolled over the bump and
into the seventh and eighth grade classroom.
I smiled at the students and said,
"Anything from the cart?"