Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Letter from Wendy

I don't worry about missing my gym workout on Wednesdays because it's Shakespeare Club day and I burn more than enough calories.

Any educator will tell you the sport of teaching involves a good deal of lugging.

Boxes of books, bags of journals and baskets of food. Furniture, games and project supplies dragged from car to classroom and back again. Lugging is a job requirement.

When I arrive at the school to set up for our meetings, it takes me forty minutes to organize the auditorium. Rattling, decrepit chairs sit piled atop a metal rack underneath the stage. I press my heels to the floor, crouch deep, suck in my abs and pull on a rope attached to the rack. I need twenty chairs for the cast members.

Many of the chairs are attached to each other like conjoined twins. They can be in groups of two or three or four. I do my best to avoid these clusters and go for the individual free-standers, but one week I was in a rush and for my final place setting I used an attached twosome. I stuck it at the end of our group's horseshoe formation.

Once the kids had arrived and we'd settled into our meditation, I noticed a jittery, busy Wendy off to my right.

Wendy is a shy, gangly fourth-grader in her second year of Shakespeare Club. It takes every drop of her courage to get a few lines out of her mouth and across the footlights, but Wendy loves Shakespeare Club. She calls me at home through the summer months to check on my well-being and to find out when club auditions will take place the next school year.

I started the kids into yoga and spotted Wendy rustling around in a corner. We raised our arms in sun salutation and I shot Wendy signals of Get over here and join in!

I moved the kids on to Warrior One and Warrior Two. I weaved in and out of the little bodies, adjusting poses, when Wendy slipped me a note on a jagged piece of notebook paper. Scrawled in pencil, she'd written:

    Dear miss rayne,

    I don't like that seat because Oliver is two close to me and I need my space as much as possible there are two cairs left so can I have my own.

I had assigned Oliver and Wendy to sit in the joined chairs, and she'd panicked. That Wendy had found her way to get her worry into my hands was a sign of her empowerment, and my admiration for the child billowed.

She's going to be fine, I thought. Wendy is going to do A-OK in the real world.

I continued to lead the group into Warrior Three, all the while replacing Wendy's and Oliver's chairs.

Halfway through our meeting, Wendy placed a string of gold Mardi Gras beads into my palm.

Those beads sit in my car to remind me that on days filled with doubt, it works, something works...'cause a little kid can write a note and ask for what she needs.

One night I had a really bad nightmamer that I was being chased by a scary clown and then I ran in the woods and I saw my old friend Krystal and her chloces was all messy and riped she looked like a bum and then I got scared so I just ran of to my house and my mom was on the chouch dead and I saw this goost and yell I will be in heven and you will be in hell. So the next day I went to the army and I went and took Laci to shoot me and she said no so I asked Sam to shoot me and said OK I will because we were in Shakesphere together and I said When I say 3.. 1, 2 and 3 and there my head fell and every one was crying. I said I love you daddy in heven.
—Wendy, 4th grade

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