|During a recent trip home, I reveled in the usual Southern hospitality. The food was fattening, the company was colorful, the weather was nice and I experienced a day in the life of mama...
My mother, a former high school social science teacher now works at a preschool for children whose parents are employed by the local hospital. Even the name is hospitable: Helping Hands Learning Center. Once there, I entered kitty wonderland filled with the pre-k paraphernalia that is ever present in "little" world.
"This is my little girl," my mother told the group of ponytails and Oshkosh wearers. Eclectic artwork donned the walls. Among the interesting group was a young man of age four named Doobie, or at least that's what they called him. He was a brown haired wonder boy of sorts, whose favorite pastime was claiming marriage to a pretty little cherub named Emma. Her imagination allowed her to travel to zoos filled with purple-pocketed kangaroos and giraffes that rode ponies wearing chocolate covered saddles.
"Raah'kin an' Coaahparay'in wyth my part'nerrr," Doobie sang in his southern most drawl causing all the teachers and me to crack up laughing. It was music time. Time to entertain the children with songs that taught. This particular one that Doobie crooned was called "Rocking and Cooperating." It was a song that commanded the listener to do exactly what the singer on the record requested. Apparently, the quirky catchy tune was to teach them to follow directions. It was almost like the game "Simon Says." 'And it worked. Carren, a beautiful almond colored girl stood up and twirled to the music. I watched, mesmerized as all the children began to rise from their seats and do exactly as the song requested. They touched their toes and clapped their hands and pronounced words that began with ta, ta, "T." I began remembering when I was four and the things that excited me. It seemed that everything was either food for thought or comment with these miniature people.
"Do you have any Barbie's?" I asked Carren when they finished their rendition of "Itsy, Bitsy, Spider."
"Yes," she answered while a dozen other hands went up waving, along with voices that shouted "me, too!"
"I have a dog, too...a German Shepherd named Charley," one dimple cheeked boy said.
"Not, dawg," Doobie drawled, "Doll! She said, doll!"
"Don't yell!" another child answered. And so began a conversation about dogs verses dolls and eventually, Barbie verses Ken.
It amused me to witness such "important" conversation between them and how urgent their need was to express themselves about things that were literally mundane to adults. Sitting at the small table and chair that I had courageously folded myself into that morning, I inhaled the scholastic fragrance of dried Elmer's glue and half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It reminded me of simpler times and a period when it was okay not to know as much. I looked around the room smiling as I watched the teachers move from one child to another, assuring that each one received ample attention. I found it captivating. Each teacher had stolen the hearts of the children. It was an oasis of learning and love, where race and economic hierarchy were obsolete, and where teacher and child worked together to accomplish the common goal of success.