On the penultimate day of school, I’m watching my 29 babies, heads down, scribble furiously their in-class analytical essays on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In these quiet, concentrated moments (there’s only a few of them every year), I want to gather them all up and hug them all. Tell them how proud I am of them to be scribbling so furiously, to be taking school so seriously.
Except for Sam, of course, who can’t write at all because his cast is up to his right elbow from Monday’s fall. And except for Nicole, who’s valiantly struggling to put a complex English sentence together without a translator in her ninth month of American education. And except for Tiana, who’s not here again today, because of all the shit that’s coming down at home.
But Ricardo is scribbling furiously, despite his older brother’s dubious legacy. And Christina is scribbling furiously, despite her health problems that debilitated her at the beginning of the year. And Carl is scribbling furiously, because he knows his parents will kill him if he doesn’t get a B. And Will is scribbling furiously, because his financial aid will be pulled if he doesn’t. And Justin is scribbling furiously, but God only knows what he’s writing, because I know he didn’t read. And Tommy is scribbling furiously despite his Asperger’s. And Greg is scribbling furiously, because he loves English class. Both Gregs, in fact.
Did they scribble so furiously with crayons in kindergarten? Or in fourth grade when regurgitating California history? Are their adolescent brain cells synapsing electrically, volleying logic and moral significance and rhetoric all at once?
Or are they faking it? Is this essay simply one more meaningless hoop through which to jump, of no greater or lesser importance than stupid quadratic equations or useless historical facts or ha! the lives of forgettable long-dead saints?
The bell rings, and half the class has finished and leaves, wishing me a great weekend. Half stay to finish and work into their precious breaktime. My cynicism wanes. Perhaps they really do want to do well, or perhaps they simply want to impress me, God love ‘em.
God bless them. I could gather them up and hug them all, my babies. On Monday, they’ll walk out the classroom door to become somebody else’s babies. And eventually, they’ll become somebody else’s husbands and wives, and then fathers and mothers with babies of their own.
Will they remember how furiously they scribbled? Will they remember me at all?