One day in seventh grade this week, in connection with our reading of Behind the Mountains, by Edwidge Danticat, my students were sharing family traditions. It was a sweet discussion. One student, whom I had seen crying earlier that week over family issues, talked about a beautiful memory that took my breath away.
As parents, we hope those happy memories outweigh the sad ones in our kids' lives. All families have plenty of both kinds. As I think about my own family, I realize that the ordinary everyday moments are often the happiest ones.
In eighth grade this week, we read Naomi Shihab Nye's poem "Valentine for Ernest Mann." (You can read it here.) It contains the words: "Poems hide." I told the class to look around in their lives for places where poems hide, and to illustrate, I pulled up my own list on my laptop and projected it on the screen. I started the list a few years ago, and had forgotten that one of the first things on it is my son's baby bath, a large blue washtub. That baby son is now an eighth grader, and he was in that very class that morning. He was embarrassed, and I quickly took down the list, but it got me thinking.
The combination of both those class discussions resulted in this poem last night. My son didn't want me to read it to his class, but he gave his permission to post it here. Hope you enjoy it.
When my son was a baby,
Every morning I would fill up a royal blue washtub
And set it out in the sun.
By noon it would be so hot
I’d have to add cold water to it.
I’d carry him outside and give him a bath.
Oh, we’d have splashy fun together
And then I’d towel him dry
And then nurse him to sleep,
Smelling his still-damp, fragrant head.
So many joyful gifts I didn’t have to deserve:
The tropical sun, free for the taking;
The water, saved from the rain
Or bought in trucks 3,000 gallons at a time
And stored in the cistern,
But as much as I really needed.
Best of all, that little blond boy
Who loved me so much,
So much that he would grin and grin
Until it seemed he would burst like a soap bubble
Every afternoon when I went to get him up from his nap.
Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com
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