Raising Your Hand-A letter to my former student

I will never forget the first time I saw you, my new student. You hobbled sideways down the hall. Balance so bad, I was sure you would fall. Yet, you had learned the quickest way to get around or getaway!

One of your arms had to be amputated when you were a baby. Your vision and hearing were impaired. I cried at the thought of being your teacher.

I am not proud of my initial reaction. But I had no idea where to begin, how to connect. And no idea how you or I would manage with the other students in my classroom. As is so often the case, you became the teacher.

Oh, it was far from easy. Working to discover what you understood, what you wanted or needed. Sometimes it was trial and error, but you would not allow anyone to give up. And though you were often frustrated, your happy moments were life-changing.

One, in particular, is forever etched on my heart.

Our class was fortunate to have a college student volunteer in our room weekly. He was tall and quiet, and the students loved him. He would push them high in the swings on the playground.

One day, as the students were lining up to come in from recess, something interesting happened. Our young college friend was picking each student up so they could touch the ceiling where they stood. Each one excitedly waited for their turn. Each one reached up as if they were reaching the sky. It was a precious sight.

And then I saw you, my new friend. You were hobbling sideways up the grassy slope as fast as you possibly could move. Making your way up the sidewalk, fully aware of what was happening in that line.

You jumped up and down in front of our college friend, raising your one hand high in the air. There may not have been any words, but you were clearly saying, “My turn! Pick me up now. I want to touch that ceiling.” So, he did. And I have never heard such sounds of pure joy in my life.

I often wonder what happened to you. Even then, I worried about what your future would hold. I hope you are safe and well. You taught me so much in the short time I knew you.

Miss You Tomorrow

Today I am where
I have not been
In quite a
Long, long time
Sitting here
Talking with you-
Nervousness fades as
Repeated questions
Are patiently met with
Repeated answers
Happiness grows
With each smile
With each laugh
Making new memories
For future questions
For future answers
Worth repeating-
Ready to go home now
I will miss you tomorrow-

I will miss you, too

We had a fun visit with our friend, Marie, this past weekend. She was nervous at first but settled in quickly. Pizza, movies, shopping-some things never change.

However, there were some noticeable changes. Most importantly, happiness and security thanks to love and consistency from her foster family.

Though she was ready to go home Sunday, she told me several times-I will miss you tomorrow. ❤

Fading Away

Brave Little Firecracker

What does it truly mean to be brave? I’m not sure I’ve had many instances deserving of that description. But the other night I witnessed one.

The scene was a Fourth of July celebration with family. My niece, Bethany, was afraid of the upcoming fireworks. She does not like loud noises. Her sweet sister, Bailey, brought some earphones in her backpack and offered them to help.

Sweet, helpful sister, Bailey. 🙂

As darkness approached, Bethany was getting more anxious. If she had it her way, she would go wait in the car until it was over. This had apparently been her routine in the past.

It is amazing what steady encouragement can accomplish. With a bit of coaxing, Bethany sat between her Nana and Papa, each of them holding a hand. They spoke calmly but with firm assurance. “You can do this.” “It’s ok.” “Look at the pretty colors.”

Their patience paid off. After the first several fireworks lit up the sky, she was watching! Not only watching but also smiling. At first thought, this may not seem to fit the picture of bravery. Not without understanding a little more about Bethany.

Bethany, now twelve, was born prematurely. She weighed 1 lb, 5 1/2 oz and was 12 in long. I will never forget seeing her for the first time. Her tiny foot was smaller than my thumb. She spent many months in the NICU, her future uncertain.

Baby Bethany~so tiny!

Due to a variety of health issues, Bethany has developmental delays. She has learned to read, loves to work puzzles, enjoys playing with friends, and continues to overcome obstacles.

Remembering her tiny beginning brings a different perspective to this question of bravery. Watching fireworks may seem a small thing to most. But for Bethany, it was about overcoming fear. I believe she deserves the title, Brave Little Firecracker!

Fourth of July! ❤️💙

Right Where We Left Off

I love the way certain friendships seem to transcend time and space. Life’s circumstances may take us far away from each other. Yet when our paths cross again, we pick up right where we left off. When reunited, it feels like nothing has changed and no time has passed.

Today I realized how much I take this phenomenon for granted. I always thought of it as a natural occurrence. Something you simply experience over time, not something you are taught. Maybe that comes from growing up in a loving home, having friends from an early age.

But what happens when a child grows up in the opposite?

Rachel and I took a little road trip to visit our sweet friend, Marie. Our short visit was well worth the almost three-hour drive. We had Christmas presents to deliver and it had been several months since we’d seen her. The year prior to her foster home placement, Rachel and I saw her almost weekly, so we were very excited about this visit! (See earlier post for more of Marie’s story.) https://pianogirlthoughts.wordpress.com/2018/08/13/face-to-face-with-child-abuse-personal-reflections-of-a-teacher/

Marie had requested Braum’s for our meeting place. You can’t go wrong with ice cream! We arrived, all smiles and ready for hugs. Her initial reaction was interesting. Lots of eye rolls and shoulder shrugs in response to our questions and attempts at conversation.

Her foster mom reassured us she had been really excited to see us. We trusted this was true, she was just not quite ready to show it. With patience and persistence (about 10-15 minutes worth) Marie was smiling, holding Rachel’s hand and laying her head on my shoulder. Finally, we were right where we left off.

On the drive home I was thinking about our visit, trying not to cry. Those goodbye hugs do it every time. Not to mention my daughter saying things like, “You’re doing really good, Mom.” 😉

As Rachel and I talked about the day, it suddenly hit me. Of course Marie would have reacted that way. This child has never had a secure home, was abused for years, tossed from one facility to another. And on top of all that, she has developmental disabilities. Before she was finally placed in this amazing foster home, the uncertainty of her future was difficult for her to understand.

We often had the following conversation:

Marie: What if I go someplace else?
Me: What are we?
Marie: My friends.
Me: Yes. And wherever you go, we will see you.
Marie: Ok.

Then she would smile. And that explanation would suffice for maybe a week…or a day. Now that she is in a loving home, our conversations have changed. She laughs as she tells me about her mom, dad, siblings, and extended family when we talk on the phone. She enjoys going to school and is making new friends. She is happy.

Marie knows we love her, but we cannot expect her to understand this idea of “picking up where you left off” just yet. She will need to experience it many times. Hopefully, time will continue to heal. And maybe one day she will be able to trust that we are true friends. Friends who pick up right where they left off, no matter the miles apart or the time gone by.

Person First

Sometimes my brain plays tricks on me

And the person in my head

Doesn’t match the reflection I see

My life has great worth, though not all believe

Yet from the time I was born

My mom reassured me

I shout out “Hello!” from inside my brain

Even though you can’t hear it

I’m shouting it, just the same

Who do you see when you look my way?

Will you take time to know me

Or will you just look away?

Do you ever think about what others see?

When they look your way

Are you fretful or free?

No matter our differences, I hope you’ll agree

We are all persons first

Always remember…Oh, please!