Hold Onto That Forever

Maybe she told them I would be back; maybe he remembered the promise that I spoke months ago, saying goodbye in a swirl of muggy June air and shouted wishes of Have a good summer! Maybe he remembers, but I walk into that classroom, and his face registers shock, a flash of disbelief and vague confusion.

I lean down, hands on my knees, to his eye level. I can’t contain my smile as I wait the brief seconds it takes for recognition and joy to replace the muted surprise on his round face. His dimple sinks deep into his dark cheek and somewhere in the back of my mind I register that he’s lost teeth in the months since I’ve last seen his face crinkle into that exultant smile.

I raise my arms, instinctively, as he wraps his arms around my waist. Returning his hug, I rub my hand over his head, laughing happily as he exclaims over my return.

Then, his arms still around me, my hand still balanced atop his head, he falls silent for just a moment, his toothless smile accomplished, confident.

I’m still smart, he says, dark eyes gazing up at me.

I agree, squeezing his shoulders just a little tighter: You are! You are!

You are still smart, child.

Seconds pass, maybe more, and he steps away from me, drawn by the appeal of four other newly-first graders on the Alphabet print carpet. Out of the corner of my eye I see him flip, one handed, head over heels. He lands, wobbling, on his feet, neatly tucked into brand new school shoes.

He’s upside down then, spinning on his head, before toppling gently, easily back into a heap of right-side-up and mischievous grin.

I should tell him to stop, remind him that gymnastics/dancing/freestyling is not allowed in the classroom, no matter how impressive it may be.

But I murmur a mild reprimand, then lean against the bookshelf behind me, watch him, marvel at him for a moment.

Marvel because I told this child, this 6-year-old little boy, that he was smart, for months. We fought together through letter worksheets, matching pages, and math exercises. And I said it, said it, said it. As tears of frustration dripped off the rims of his glasses. As he melted to a defeated puddle under the table. I said it, and after months, he began to say it, too.

You say I’m smart, he would say to me when I arrived, and I would nod, brush a hand over his head in greeting, shrug dramatically: Of course I do! It’s true! He knew I believed. He knew I said.

Maybe he even knew that it was true.

And today, months later, after a long summer of hot days and playing and working and wondering what will come next, wondering if I’d see the child again, he squeezed my waist, proud to announce what he knows to be true:

He’s still smart.

And I hope, I pray, that he holds that confidence, that assurance, that bravery, forever.

~Natalia

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Grandma S.
    Sep 03, 2014 @ 08:32:40

    I love it.

    Reply

  2. Trackback: The Jump | Lead Me Where

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