Thursday, April 20, 2017

"You Always Wear Your Purple Shirt"

"Teacher Tom, you always wear the same shirt."

It isn't entirely true, but I understand why a kid might say that. "I wear different shirts."

"No, you always wear your purple shirt."

Again, not entirely true, but I do always wear something from my by now extensive Woodland Park logo t-shirt collection, and among them are three purple ones. "I do wear a lot of purple shirts."

"And you always wear the same jeans."

This is true, although I'll switch to shorts when the weather permits it. I have one pair of threadbare jeans I think of as my "work pants." They get washed every weekend whether they need it or not. "Fair enough."

"And you always wear the same shoes."

By now, I was starting to feel a little defensive. I have several pairs of shoes I wear to school, but I have to admit that I've gone with the same old (mostly) waterproof boots during this long, wet winter. "I don't always wear the same shoes. I just mostly wear the same shoes."

"You don't even change your hairstyle."

"It gets longer and shorter, but yes, you're right about that."

Up to this point he had taken the posture of an earnest prosecutor, laying out the bare facts as if from notes. I appreciated his honestly and was flattered that he had apparently given my appearance a good deal of thought, even as I wasn't exactly thrilled with the portrait he was painting of me. But now he smiled as he came to the conclusion toward which he had been working, "You never change."

In a flash I recognized that while I do change, while I do continue to grow, in this boy's eyes I am a man upon whom one can rely day after day, a man that he saw as solid, predictable, stable, and safe, like my father had been for me. That isn't the kind of man I have always been. I liked what I saw in this unexpected reflection of myself. I said, "Thank you for telling me that."

"You're welcome."

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