My son’s kindergarten teacher.
I, who work in an office with adults,
Always have to adjust to the elementary school rhythm
On calls from school.
They always start rushed,
As if I’m dropping into the middle of a conversation.
Ever since he got back from spring break,
My son has been acting up:
Not doing his work,
Not keeping his hands to himself.
He’d been doing so well,
Making so much progress.
“Maybe it’s his dad
Leaving,” I say.
“Yeah, I was thinking about that,” his teacher says.
My son’s dad had come for spring break.
The two of them had had so much fun:
Going on a train trip to Washington DC.
My son still talking about
The Washington Monument,
He was throwing dice across the room,
And sitting in front of a blank piece of paper
Refusing to write.
“After all the progress we’ve made,
I just don’t want to go backward,” his teacher says.
In my office,
My cell phone pressed against my hot face,
I promised to talk to my son,
And his teacher promised to keep me informed,
And we hung up,
A little team rooting for my son.
On the bike ride home,
Swerving through construction on University Avenue,
Dodging potholes and
Tented sidewalk slabs,
I was thinking of how we would
Not be going to McDonald’s playland,
There would be consequences.
So I got home,
And there he was at the dining room table,
Flicking the longish hair out of his eyes.
He crumpled a styrofoam cup in his hand,
Sat down across from him,
And we talked.
Because that’s all I can do.
I can’t go back.
I can’t heal his wounds
Or prescribe his experience.
His father is his father
And that father lives in another country.
And I’m his mom,
And I’m here.
And that’s both his gift and his trial.
I can only guide, my
Hand between his butterfly shoulder blades,
Here are some tools to put in your
Thomas the Train backpack, Buddy.
You’re on your way.
I love you.
Jennifer, thank your for being so plain. Your life is part of mine as well as part of every one in our family. I can’t begin to understand the complexity of your experience. But, damn, find warmer places to live :). We love you all.