My doorbell rang half-an-hour ago. I love my doorbell. It sounds like a classical pianist floating his fingers over the keys in a series of descending runs. Sometimes I ring my own doorbell … just for fun.
A boy of about 11 stood before me. I’ll call him Trevor. I know him a bit. He’s in the Grade 6 class that I miss volunteering in. And he was selling pepperette sausages. I opted for 25 hot ones and 25 honey-garlic. He was pleased.
The moment was also in front of me. Trevor mentioned that all the kids missed me. I was glad and sad. The opportunity was to tell him the entire truth about why I’m not at school right now. Or … just part of the truth. I decided on the whole enchilada.
The first reason is that the school board isn’t allowing any volunteers onsite – just paid staff. Strangely, it wasn’t even tempting to rely on that reason alone. It would have been a convenient out: some officials made the decision. Nothing I can do about it.
No thanks. “Partial” leaves a sour taste in my mouth. So I sprung for reason number two. “I don’t feel safe about being in the classroom. I’m 71, at higher risk for contracting Covid. And there’s no way that 26 kids can stay six feet away from each other in a classroom.”
I love those kids. And taking care of my health comes first. As soon as I told Trevor the truth, I sighed. The truth simply works. Nothing left out. Clean.
I look forward to a future WordPress post about my return to the young ones.
Last fall was not this fall. One of the many differences is my presence in the classroom as a volunteer. A year ago, I was in the Grade 5/6 class about four half-days a week. Now it’s not at all. No volunteers allowed, plus I’m too scared to go back. Advanced age, you know, and little social distancing.
What you see in front of you is the framed version of a collage, composed of 23 kids and me. We coloured our figure and added words that were important to us. Here were my choices:
Kind, folk music, elliptical
tennis, you, golf, determined
love, 70, connection, meditation
hands, January 9, 1949
Twelve months on, the words still ring true … mostly. I haven’t been on the elliptical at the gym since March, and I don’t care about golf anymore, but love is still the coolest thing around.
I miss the kids but there is still a connection between us. Unspoken right now, unseen with the physical eye, and undoubtedly joined through the heart. Our time will come. I will again sit in my favourite spot – on top of a cupboard – and feel the flow of learning and wondering.
Until then, there is the art of souls.
Down Main Street, there is a convenience store. In the warmer months, the cooler in there is brimming with tubs of ice cream. So many colours, so many flavours. I’m partial to chocolate peanut butter, especially if I can score some big chunks of yumminess. Next door might be a tub of rum raisin (which, according to my extreme bias, is absolutely revolting). There’s probably twelve tubs, glowing in their differentness from each other.
Further down the main drag is the village’s coffee shop, complete with a horseshoe-shaped lunch counter. The wraparound is usually populated by men. The female regulars prefer a nearby table.
One local guy stopped coming to the diner a few weeks ago. Rumours abound, but in any event he just doesn’t come by anymore for a coffee. I miss him. At times he’s ornery and stubborn but he’s also very intelligent, with opinions that often get me thinking.
A far quieter regular died last year. He was a gentle soul who quietly ate his breakfast, usually responding to neighbours like me with very few words and a gentle smile.
At the other end of the restaurant, near the bulletin board, two women often sat together for conversation. Now it’s just one woman. Her friend also died recently, taking a twinkle of the eye to another realm.
Then there’s the Grade 5/6 class – 24 children. On the days when only 23 seats are occupied, there is a gap. Whether it’s a bouncing kid or mostly a silent one, there is a loss, a missing piece. For four days last week, I was sick and missing. On Friday, I sensed that some kids felt it important that I was back.
It’s when your absence leaves a vacuum
that people miss you
Unforgettable is about creating your own space
a space that would be left bare
in your absence
Nesta Jojoe Erskine
I was sitting in a movie theatre tonight when those two words floated into my brain. For two-and-a-half months, they’d been silent. The last time I wrote to you was in early August, a post about my Belgian friends Baziel and Olivia playing basketball in Toronto.
Strange. I’ve had no desire to write. I told myself that my recent travels to a golf tournament in Toronto and visits to San Francisco and New York City left me with precious little time to tap on the keys, but the truth was that I simply didn’t want to. I may have had the occasional twinge of guilt about this in August, September and October, but virtually nothing.
I knew I’d write again but I was giving myself infinite space to do what drew me and not do what had no current oomph. Pretty cool, actually, to be so kind to myself. Right now, there’s a tiny smile on my face as I honour the person I’m continuing to morph into.
So … tonight. I watched a documentary called Aquarela, which offered stunning visuals about the power of water. Cars slipping under the ice during an early spring in Siberia. Hurricane Somebody lashing the streets of Miami, leaving the trunks of some palm trees flat and others curving under the force of the gale. A small sailboat crossing the Atlantic with its crew of two, riding the immense swells of the ocean. (In August I threw up three times on a little boat on Lake Erie, and tonight I could imagine a fourth.) Building-sized chunks of ice breaking off from the mother ship and bobbing like corks in the water, while sounds like gunshots filled the space.
Awesome stuff. And yet for me such natural drama doesn’t hold a candle to looking at someone’s face, to gazing into their eyes. I’m a mite biased that way. Give me people every time.
316 words. How about that? I’m back.
In my better moments, all of you out there in Cyberland are my Beloveds. I haven’t met you but I know. Plus every person I see on the street is similarly precious. As I said, that’s what I feel on my good days.
We all want to be happy. We all want to contribute in this world. We all want our lives to matter. And we want to love.
The corn has been high in the field out back for a month or two. It’s created a cozy feeling on my patio, a sense of sanctuary. I got back from Toronto a few hours ago, had something to eat and did my laundry. Then it was off to my bedroom chair for a spell of meditation. When my eyes opened a few minutes ago, it was dark out there in Southwestern Ontario. And I gazed at a scene that had been hidden from me: red cars going left to right on the distant Harrietsville Drive and white ones moving right to left. The farmer had cut down his corn.
The Beloveds had returned. “I don’t know who you are but I love you. Travel well to your destination.” The feeling inside was warm and flowing. There was a reaching out from my body, through the glass, over the stubble and into the front seats. Communion with unseen strangers.
Several times a week I’m on the internet with members of the Evolutionary Collective Global Community. Our hour together includes people from all over the world. For a couple of weeks I hadn’t seen a friend from Ireland. I missed her. On Friday, as a gift, there she was on my laptop screen, along with many other rectangles filled with human beings. There was an intake of breath as I saw her. Even richer than the cars tonight.
Thirty minutes of our global time are devoted to practicing with one other person, determined each time by some algorithm. I haven’t spent time with a few friends for a month or more. Sometime last week, a fellow from California burst onto my screen … and the joy flooded me. “It’s been too long.” Reunions continue to blossom.
Cars on roads, folks on laptops, a Belmontonian walking through the door of the Diner after being away for awhile … all blessings to me. And I need to realize that when I return to the school where I volunteer after being absent for several days, I’m a blessing to those kids.
We touch each other