Monday, September 7, 2009

Of Purple Trees and Other Bits of Wisdom

You know how, when your children are little, you always mean to write down the funny, sweet things they say and do, and hopefully you remember to write down a few? Public school teachers hear a hundred fold as many quotables from their students that we think we'll never forget. I know I've forgotten most of them, but with school starting all over the country, I was thinking about my son and my former students today.

It was actually pretty smart of my Dave to pick up on plural nouns when he was just 3, and when he wanted one piece of lettuce, it was a "letta" just as one piece of cheese was a "chee". And he kept secrets really well. He loved to paint rocks and painted one that looked exactly like a Razorback hog and wanted to give it to my sister for Christmas, but I told him we would keep it a secret; as soon as she walked in, he ran to her and said, "Aunt Nan! I painted you a Razorback, but it's a secret!" He gets this ability from me.

Then there was Dudley in my 9th grade English class. I swear to God his name was Dudley, and pretty much everything he said sounded like a joke, but he didn't mean it that way. I remember handing out test papers, and the one I put on his desk happened to be upside down. "Uh, Mrs. Finley, I think you printed the tests wrong!" And there was the time I was explaining the pros and cons of something or other in our literature study, and half the class was totally puzzled because they thought I was saying frozen pecans.........I guess you had to be there. And there were the 3 years I counseled 500 kindergarteners. I probably could have filled a notebook with their cute chatter, but most of it has slipped away. I do remember Robert, who often had accidents in his pants. The clean clothes closet was just off my office, and when the teacher walked drippy Robert past my door, I said, "Robert, did you tinkle in your pants?" He said, "No, ma'am, I just peed in 'em a yiddle."

Of course sometimes they're smarter than we are. When Rani was first learning to jabber a few words, she said from her car seat behind me, clear as day, "Purple trees". I said, "Oh how sweet! She thinks the trees are purple! No, baby, the trees are green." About that time I saw where she was looking, and all the tree trunks had splashes of purple on them, as posted land............. And the first time 7 year-old Stewart spent the night with us, I put him to bed in a small guest room we'd never used. Minutes later, he was beside me saying, "I can't sleep. There are lights on the ceiling." Leading him back to the bedroom, I explained comfortingly that the lights he saw probably were headlights from the roads that wound up the hills and sometimes shined through the trees into the house. We turned out the light, settled onto his bed, and I looked up to see dozens of glowing lights on the ceiling, tiny stars, placed there by the previous owners for their children. After we talked about them for a minute, he was fine.
Moral of the story: If it makes you smile, laugh, or tear up, write it down.

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