I am a truly fortunate woman. Every day I notice teeny tiny little things of no consequence to anyone, that stop me dead in my tracks. Whilst this may come across as a ‘holier than thou,’ approach, nothing could be further from the truth, it’s merely my small appreciation of the magnificence of the average human bean.
I sit in a chair and enjoy my treat. This is one Christmas voucher that I shan’t let expire. Whilst I sit, I watch the woman wheeled in with care and chat. As she sits in her chair, her daughter sits next to her to remove white specks of fluff from her mother’s black cardigan, tease the curls of her hair, smooth the wrinkles in her skirts, lay a hand on the quaking Parkinson’s fingers, lift her legs into the steamy bubbling water, where the skin hangs in gentle, dried creases and her toes are folder over, furled and gnarled. For now, my body still co-operates with me,. My own bodily functions are within my command.
Later, I watch a Dad walk his dog on a lead. Behind him, two little boys under the age of five, walk should to shoulder, the older and younger deep in amiable conversation. Although they’re engrossed, their bodies remain four feet behind their Dad’s, in tandem. I can almost see the invisible chord that connects them. They don’t drift behind, lagging. They don’t speed up to collide with their Dad. Dad looks forward to attend to the dog, never glancing behind, confident that his blood line is at heel. Not careless but carefree. This is a skill they all have, innate and untutored, just like most other people.
On the school run, I attend to the speed limit in a residential area. I see a very small child. The neon pink glow lets me know that she is a girl. She hurtles along the sidewalk alone on her bicycle. There are no adults in sight in any direction. I brake as I approach the stop sign and pause as she approaches the road, and brakes. She puts a foot to the ground to steady her four year old little body. Her helmet clad head turns to look behind her. In her wake, several hundreds of yards away, a mother pushes a stroller at a steady and even pace. Even at this great distance I know that she carries no qualms of anxiety, stress or worry. She knows her daughter will stop. She knows her daughter will wait. Well done mum. Well done daughter.
Cars beetle about the school like a swarm of ants as I await the bell, the end of the school day. A boy catapaults out of his classroom burdened with back pack, winter coat and a sheaf of papers. He pounds down the concrete as his eyes search the traffic. His body changes course seamlessly and bounds towards the hovering double parked car. Off the sidewalk he plunges toward it, a brief smile and wave as he simultaneously heaves open the door, hurls in his belongings and throws his body into the car. I see him lean forward to talk to the driver as his hands reach for the seat belt, all at the same time. Imagine having a body that obeys you, faultlessly?
Children gather at the crossing. The crossing guard watches the traffic for a break. All the children chat to one another as they wait and watch the crossing guard, all at the same time. Their attention may be distracted from time to time, but when the moment comes they all move off in unison, a pack of Impala, a unified group who recognize the signal and respond without effort. I have a sudden renewed love of the herding instinct. How do they do that?
My youngest son scampers towards me scattering his belongings in his wake, but clutching a blue piece of paper as he runs up my body like a squirrel. “Mom! Mom! Mom!” “Yes dear?” “Look!” he commands and sometimes words desert him. He shoves the paper into my face in a helpful gesture for the bifocally challenged. I shift him onto my right hip and hold the paper in my left hand, arm extended for focus.
The blue sheet of paper is his daily report card that reflects behavioural prowess rather than academic achievement. Six opportunities;- to follow directions, complete work and stay focused, stayed in line or in one’s personal space, raise hand, wait to take turns to talk and used a gentle voice, kept one’s space clean and neat, and lastly and perhaps most importantly, ‘ I was kind to everyone.’ There is a gradation of marks. 1 for ‘none of the time,’ to 4 for ‘most of the time.’ A spectrum of grey where there are no absolutes, merely rainbow shades of possibilities. He has been at this school and others like it, for four and a half years, in the care of dedicated professionals with a vocation.
“My! Did you get all 4’s today? What a truly awesome student you are!” We exchange beams of pride because some things require effort, many things have to be learned and very few of them can be found in a school text book.