23 February 2012


In first grade, the year I would not speak up in class except to answer questions (speaking quietly even then so no one could hear if I got them wrong), we found a Post-It note on the teacher's desk. It said simply, "Little Richard." They'd been talking about his recent release from jail at the staff meeting, she'd explained, so she'd doodled the name on a paper.

Romantics that we were, our little posse plucked handfuls of dandelion bouquets at recess. We presented them to her in Dixie cups full of water, giggling about how much she must love Little Richard, how they'd probably get married the next day. We clumped together at the end of the day, making lists of wedding details, and she took it all in stride. What's the harm in letting six-year-olds dream?

Little Shar was not just a dreamer; she was a doer. While the other kids forgot about the impending Little Richard wedding on their bus rides home, I was busy thinking of all the things I needed to get ready. (Have I ever mentioned the time two sixth graders decided to get "married" at recess? How I was going to be one of the bridesmaids if another girl was sick--but that she showed up at school in perfect health and I was demoted to the role of bouncer? How that mainly meant keeping a jealous sixth-grade guy--who also had a crush on the bride--away from the ceremony? Let's be honest: I was terrified. I missed most of the wedding so I could keep my wary eyes trained on him as he paced at the other end of the gym. If he'd plowed us down like I imagined he might, I would have forsaken it all and run. Thankfully, they got "married" peacefully, and the "preacher" ended up bringing his own Bible, so we didn't have to use the one I'd tucked into my backpack the night before--just in case. Anyway, point is, spur-of-the-moment weddings were kind of my thing in elementary school.)

I put my Bible in my backpack. I created colored-pencil flowers on cardboard, painstakingly cut them out. I even drew what was meant to be a life-size portrait of Little Richard. (The cardboard pieces were only 12 inches tall, so I had to improvise. I had no clue what the real Little Richard looked like: my version had a red bow tie and yellow skin.)

I carried it all to school, eagerly awaiting the moment when we'd surprise the teacher with our marvelous wedding preparations. I waited. I waited and waited and waited, and it became clear that the others weren't going to participate. So, in the middle of the morning, as my teacher leaned over Josh's desk to help him with homework, I snaked my hand down into the backpack and retrieved the flowers. I remember a burst of uncharacteristic spontaneity. I remember flinging paper daisies into the air. I remember crying, "Happy wedding day!"

She stopped, looked at me. "What did you say?"

"It's your wedding day! Pick up your flowers!"

That night, my parents got a phone call. It was their first--and last--discipline-related phone call from school.


I told this story to my eighth graders today (it related to grammar somehow). They thought the flower-flinging was hilarious. We laughed together, and then they classified parts of speech.


There is one single male at our school. One. In a sea of families and single female teachers, there is one guy. And I feel a little sorry for him, because wherever there are single people, there are people trying to help them become less single. (I suspect it happens slightly less here, with so many of us in the same phase of life, but still. It happens.) If you're the lone wolf in an ocean of wolfesses, people say things. People nudge one another. People make suggestions. I've had the suggestion made at least once because, after all, we have three things in common: we both love Jesus, we are both human beings, and we are both single.


So Leprechaun is standing near the bookshelf in my classroom, making a big show of peeking at my computer screen and pretending to be shocked at what he finds. (This is an old game. The most shocking thing I have open on the internet is amazon.com.) He leans over the monitor and puts a hand to his mouth. "What? What do I have open this time?" I ask.

"Nothing. Just your email." Then--insert impish grin--he leans over again. "Wait, what? Mr. Single Teacher?!"

"First of all, Leprechaun, sit down and do your homework. Second of all, I don't think Mr. Single Teacher has emailed me all year."

But this is the joy of having single teachers. You want them to be blissfully happy. You want them to fall in love and be adorable and, most of all, invite you to the wedding. I knew that feeling when I was six years old, shading in the cardboard profile of Little Richard. And I know that, even as Leprechaun is quietly labeling nouns and prepositions at his desk, he can't help grinning as he pretends to toss flowers in the air and mouths, "Happy wedding!"


It doesn't help that the other teacher and I have lunch duty together this week. He poked his head into my room to ask which of us should circulate the building first, which should eat. I said I'd walk around; I followed him out of the room; I glanced over to see an eighth grade boy with glinting eyes giving me a silent smile, invisible flowers being strewn all across the lunch table.

1 comment:

mom said...

Oh, I sure do remember that call. I was shocked and surprised that you could have done such a thing. Thankfully that was the only time of being called by a teacher. Its funny now, but not so funny then.