Friday, May 27, 2016

Busy Living It


































"I didn't see the time/I waited half my life away." ~Leonard Cohen

Today is our final day of classes for the 2015-16 school year. As usual, it has gone too fast. Our oldest kids do something special to end the year: they write, costume, stage, and perform an original play, which is attended by parents, grandparents, and friends. It's a tradition that stretches back to my second year teaching. Since everyone is already there, we then typically finish the day with a pizza party and a simple bridge ceremony. Otherwise, the rest of our classes try to end the year just as we've begun with no particular hoopla or fanfare, which is also how the 5 year olds finished their year yesterday, the day after the play, one last day to just be us together.

I like reading Eve Bunting's Little Bear's Little Boat as I send the kids on their way, a sweet metaphorical story that almost always makes me tear up, but I also usually read Sandra Boyton's Yay, You! during this final week. I love the way it ends with "I know you'll be great because you already are."

And, naturally, like everyone in the world, we read Dr. Seuss' Oh, The Places You'll Go! This is, like most of his works, a piece of genius that emphasizes hope, but does not ignore the dark, sad places that all of us will spend at least some of our time. I've read it many times before, but this week, I've found myself slowing down as I read:


You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grinding on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
                                                                  The Waiting Place . . .

. . . for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.


As I read it I recognized that this is not in the realm of the experience of most young children. They may know, for instance, that there is kindergarten in their future, but when we shared our future "plans" yesterday, most of them talked excitedly about the next few days, of camping trips or visits to grandmas or coming back in two weeks for our first session of our summer camp. There is no Waiting Place, or at least not one in which any of them would willingly spend time. The time is now! Seize the day!

And when I turned the page and read, "NO! That's not for you!" those 5-year-olds let out murmurs, and even a couple shouts, of agreement. They turned to one another and shook their heads, agreeing that this applied to them. It felt like a revelation.

We all have to wait sometimes, but it's the self-imposed waiting, the waiting half our lives away that Seuss is writing about. Kids know better than we do that, no matter what, you've just got to get on with your life of doing. It's one of the gifts every child give us, especially now as we contemplate the rest of her life while she's busy living it.


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