Wednesday, May 29, 2013


On Monday when I arrived at Tamara's grade one classroom to pick her up, her teacher—a warm and gentle soul—showed me the damage.  Tamara had scratched some drawings onto the door.

"I told her how serious this was and she did say that, yes, she was the one who did it.  She said she was sorry and wouldn't do it again," her teacher said.

Tamara turned toward the wall in shame and embarrassment.  Her teacher winked at me.

"I think it's really great that she was honest and that she apologized," I said.  "Thanks for letting me know."

And that was the end of it.

I'm so proud of her because she didn't lie, make excuses, or try to escape from the situation.  Instead she took responsibility for what she did and was willing to learn from her mistake.

Knowing she felt bad about it and especially in light of the fact that she genuinely apologized, I haven't mentioned the incident in her presence ever since.

And, if you ask me, her drawings were pretty darn cute.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

the binoculars

Crystal squinted then grabbed the binoculars from the window ledge.  “Oh my gawd!” she said.

“What?” said Valerie who gripped the wooden arms of her rocking chair as she glided back and forth.

Crystal offered the binoculars.  “Look who Angela’s hanging out with!”

Valerie waved her hand dismissively.  “I don’t wanna get up.  Just tell me what’s happening.”

“Oh my gawd!  He’s a psycho!  Is that lipstick smeared across his forehead?  Creepy.  And he’s got missing teeth.”

“Ew,” said Valerie.

“I’m gonna look her up on google.  I can probably find some dirt on her.”

“Do it!” said Valerie.  She closed her eyes to enjoy the luxury of her rocking chair.

Crystal eventually stumbled back into the room.  “She’s total crap.”

“Well, I knew that already.”

Crystal picked up the binoculars.  “Oh, I don’t see the psycho guy anymore, but…”

“Well?” said Valerie with her eyes still closed, “Don’t leave me hangin’.  What is it?”

“She’s all crumpled on the sidewalk now.  She looks injured.  And she’s making something.”

After a few minutes silence, Crystal said, “It’s poster board and she’s drawn on it with black marker.  She’s holding it up for the cars going by.”

“That’s kind of disturbing.”

“It’s—it’s a drawing of a bank.  Our bank, I think.”

Valerie opened her eyes.  “Huh?  What’s she trying to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is she still crumpled or standing up?”


“Why would she put herself out there like that?  Ridiculous.”

“You know what it is?  Crappy parents.”

“Uh… okay.”

“Trust me on this, people like her come from bad parents.  If she was like us, she wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“Maybe we can help her.”

“Well, I don’t know.  It’s her own fault she can’t get up.  I mean look how many poster boards she’s trying to keep track of.”  She gestured, indicating Valerie should see for herself.

“No, I’m good.  Just keep telling me what’s happening.”  She closed her eyes again.

Crystal went pale and lowered the binoculars.  “She—it’s—she could’ve become one of us.”

“I don’t know about that.  Is she making any efforts to get up yet?”

Crystal raised the binoculars.  “Um, no.  She’s holding up a different one now—“

Valerie was jolted by the sound of the binoculars hitting the hardwood floor.  “Crystal, for crying out loud, what is it?”

“Angela’s crossed the line,” she said, her voice wobbling as she headed for the kitchen.

Valerie stood up and retrieved the dropped binoculars.  Next thing she knew, Crystal was running down the driveway with a paper bag over her head and upon the bag there balanced, precariously, a red wig.  As she ran, her right hand swooped down to grab a stick from the front corner of the lawn.  The wig fell off.

“Oh no, here we go,” said Valerie.

By the time Paper Bag Lady got to the sidewalk across the road, Angela had put the poster boards into a neat pile and appeared to be holding something in her cupped hands.

“How dare you!” shrieked Crystal and jabbed the stick into Angela’s wound.

Fairy dust billowed from between the crumpled woman’s fingers in an array of colors and she began to cry.  “I know it’s you, Crystal,” she said through her tears.  “I can tell by your crocs.”

That's when Crystal looked down and noticed she was bleeding.

Monday, May 13, 2013

where's the satisfaction?

This morning before the rain, I spent time with my notebook at the playground while our little guy Trevor climbed around.

Sometimes in our house when one child tries to hoard a case of pencil crayons or something, I'll say, "It's the family's and that means it's for sharing."

So when Trevor took over the "steering" wheel near the top of the slide, he looked sternly at the younger curly-haired stranger and said, "It's the family's!"

He automatically assumed she wasn't willing to share, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.  Perhaps there was a gap in his reasoning or maybe a yucky layer of selfishness he wasn't able to see through in order to get the whole point.

I'm slightly disappointed now that I didn't immediately get up and offer some correction.  Instead there was a tickle on my forehead and when I swiped at it, a small black spider dropped onto my page.  I pushed it off with the other end of my pen.

What is it with crawly things making their way into my work?  I'm not afraid of them, but they're kind of annoying.

In any case, he didn't actually steer anybody anywhere with that wheel.

art project 24

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

family walk

On Sunday our family walked to nearby school grounds.  Our daughter, Tamara, ran through the dandelion field, her sunlit dress swaying, messy hair bouncing with each step.  And for a moment I was exhilarated.

Past the field and next to the school building, I settled at the base of a blossomed tree.  Its shadow stretched far across pea gravel strewn with pink petals and trembling leaf silhouettes.

There came a tickle on my left arm, an ant, and there were many traveling around my legs.  But they were too sparse, too tiny and scattered to ruin my relaxation.

In the distance, the soft clang of chain against metal beat rhythmically like a pulse through my veins, like the steady back and forth of the children on swings.  Kevin, tall and reddened by toil under sun, awaited the inevitable plea for another push.

I did eventually grow weary of brushing ants off my arms, and the children were getting hot so we walked home again.