Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dressing the Part: Charly



During Halloween our school holds a costume parade. The littlest five-year-olds march side by side with their older counterparts. Clowns and mad scientists. Gypsies and princesses. Hair colors in vibrant purples and greens promise a good parental scrub when the day ends.

It's a sweet, festive and candy-laden day. For many. But not for all.

There are aspects to the holiday I find sad.

The stoicism of an uncostumed girl when she attempts to throw herself into the "fun" along with her dressed-up classmates.

The solo kid that shows up at our door with a meek "trick or treat" as his parents wait on the sidewalk. Why isn't he racing up and down the sidewalk with a pack of buddies?

Or a mom, wine glass in hand, escorting her boy and berating him for "whining."

I started my volunteering experience six years ago as a reading mentor. This was before I had conjured up an idea called The Shakespeare Club. This was just me and a little-boy first grader meeting once a week in the school library.

Charly spoke both Spanish and English but struggled with reading. We started out with "Hop on Pop" and "Clifford the Big Red Dog." We had a routine where he would read for a bit and, when he tired, tapped my hand so I could take over and read to him.

I gave Charly journals to draw pictures of the stories we read and eventually, as he advanced in school, he wrote reviews of the books to go along with the drawings.

I spent five years with Charly and he never had a costume on Halloween. I guessed his parents may not have had the money to buy Charly an outfit. Turns out I was right and wrong.

There are children across this country living in neighborhoods deemed too dangerous for trick-or-treating. Communities where it's simply safer inside and the idea of knocking on strangers' doors willy-nilly would be unwise at best.

Charly was bused to our school. He lived with his family in an apartment where any celebrating would be kept inside. By fifth grade he did come to the Halloween costume parade with streaks of blue in his hair and I made a big fuss about how cool and appropriate it looked because Charly and his dad were Dodgers fans.

It's the acts of children as solo artists that I find moving. The kids on the edge who look in. The kids who walk alone.


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
When I wanted love was when I was eight. I loved frogs. I asked my mom to get me one and she did. I loved her at that moment.
Phoebe, 4th grade

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