I closed the last book. They sat there awkwardly. Some looked at me blankly. Others’ minds and bodies wandered off. Mrs. Bush said, “What do we say?” The class mumbled, “Thank you … ,” not quite in unison or unanimity. “What dooo we saayy?!,” Mrs. Bush repeated with greater expectations. The kids screamed, “THANK YOU!”
I was the “Mystery Reader” for Evie’s class. She’s one of my twin 4 year olds. I read 3 books … two too many for the attention span of ten 4 year olds. They tuned in and out like that one radio station you want to listen to while driving along a far west Texas ‘Farm to Market’ road. Side conversations, inspections of hair and clothes, and rolling on the floor were intermittent like static cutting in and out along the drive. Mrs. Bush prodded periodically for politeness to get the station tuned in again. It was humbling being a “Mystery Reader.”
I read books about curious, passionate kids who explore and build things, defining who they are — Ada Twist, Scientist, Iggy Peck, Architect, and Rosie Revere, Engineer. The characters face and overcome rejection, make mistakes, and persevere. Their flowers burst from buds. These are children’s story versions of Anais Nin’s quote, “and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
I read for nearly 30 minutes (again, too long for these kids). Occasionally, I paused pregnantly. Tears welled. Breath eluded me, stolen by the gestating hope I carry for my girls to be more brave and strong than I have been.
I aspire to create experiences for my girls that might catalyze curiosity, courage, and commitment. Some are bold. Some boring. The experiences and experiments are matches I strike in the windy night of life. Some light. Many blow out. A few may find a fuse and catch. Fuses burn, fuses fizzle. Some may sizzle slowly. The gunpowder that is my girls potential awaits the charge. Me, with anxious anticipation, look to the sky for the colored light and glare while I hold my ears, wary of the blast.
When I finished, one of the boys told me, “That was boring. But I had fun.” Evie climbed in my lap. She hugged me, looked me in the eyes and said , “I love you.” I hugged her back and whispered in her ear, “I love you, too. Be brave. Make mistakes. Learn. Grow.”
She walked away.
One more match lit on a windy Fourth of July.