It happened like this. A day about a month ago, I catch her running across the yard after school. It was 45 minutes after she was supposed to have walked to her after-school program already. I holler her name, and she keeps running, and in my head I think: OMG. But she turns around, sheepish and embarrassed, and puts her sweater over her face, feeling her way my direction. That’s my girl. Two years, and she is and will always be a firecracker of personality. When I taught her in second grade, I would attempt to quell her tantrums, tear-stained and loud. And this year, I put my foot down as hard as the attitude she fires at me.
But in the end, I find that I cannot forget and I look down and see that she has already found a room in my heart and is nailing down the carpet and hanging up crayon-scribbled drawings. Like the oversized heart she gave me for Valentine’s. It read: Violets are blue, roses are red, I know you love me, and I love you too! The best was those little words – I know. She knew despite all the days of butting heads, phone convos with her dad, and whimpering sobs when she realized she was in trouble too deep she could not crawl out. But this was Damonie, my love, the one who has dreams – of being a cop, a basketball player, a rapper, a college student – lining the bottom of her shoes, the one with determination I know no one will take from her.
So that day, I lectured her about being exactly where her dad thought she was supposed to be – after-school club – and about being safe on the streets. And in the middle of it all, she asks plaintively, “So, will you tell me now where you’re going to be next year?”
And so I do. I explain to her what an international school is, what it means for Americans to live in other countries, and where Malaysia is, and all of a sudden, she is sobbing in my arms. But I don’t understand. Why do you have to teach there? There are kids to teach here too.
Goodbyes are hard. They tear at the roots. The view from the treetop can be so solemn, and yet so freeing. On the last day of school, I gave her directions to write me letters in Malaysia and a sheet of postal stamps for international letters. Teaching a child is like seeing only one scene in a movie, with only speculations and imaginings for the larger context. I don’t know how this all ends, or when the climax will be, or how the character grows, develops, and flourishes. I just trust it will all happen. I just trust that I will not forget these little moments and all their little stories. It takes great courage to hope for their wondrous, unfolding, potential-filled lives, and to pray that the ending is good, real good.