Missy walked Teddy, her son, out of the car and up the steps to the new school. Not new to the neighborhood, but new to Teddy. And also new to Missy. Teddy was her first child, and she walked with him carrying a backpack herself of hesitations and nightmare scenarios.
He was so young. Or, at least he looked young. He was as old as his other classmates starting: a good, solid five years. But walking into the classroom, she could see he was the shortest, most diminutive one there.
“Do you want to do this?” she asked. Teddy nodded his head.
“You can wait till next year. It’s ok.”
This conversation had happened at least six times before. Each time, the boy said he wanted to go. He was ready. He wanted to face the world.
Missy was not ready, but she had reason enough to know she would never be. So many times, she wished he could get his own breakfast or tie his own shoes or figure out the TV so she could get a little more sleep after nursing his younger sister in the night. Now that he finally could, she realized it was only a matter of time before…
The night before, she lied down next to him as he drifted off to sleep and held him close for a little longer than usual. Maybe time would see her predicament and slow down a bit.
Would he make friends? That was her worst fear: that everyone would pick on him. He was joining the class in Kindergarten, but preschool was the thing now. The social network was probably already established. Kids knew other kids. Moms knew other moms and there would be no room for little Teddy who now had to push his way into whatever clicks were already up and running.
“We’re going to begin now, Mrs. Marsell.” Missy heard the teacher’s voice. She looked around and realized she was the only adult left aside from the teacher.
“Oh, of course,” she said. She gave a short kiss to Teddy. “I love you, Bear.”
What Missy didn’t know was that, in addition to the school being new to the Marsell family, it was also new to the teacher, Ms. Flanners – a young, confident woman, fresh off a cleared teaching credential. She was busting to try her new and latest techniques out on the children who were, in her mind, bright little sponges, eager to drink in the beauty and knowledge she was ready to pour into their cute, empty heads.
The twins, their nicknames Frick and Frack, had absolutely no intention of letting this happen. Neither did Billy, who wasn’t consciously thinking of gumming the flow of the day up but still managed to by constantly getting out of his seat and wandering to various parts of the room. Sage and Lily, frenemies from the year before, were either talking or arguing at alternate intervals. Majd couldn’t sit still for five minutes – filled with frenetic energy and questions. Everyone else either got on board with Ms. Flanners when she got a grip on the whole situation or got on board with all their other classmates when it was clear she had lost said grip.
And Teddy, poor Teddy, didn’t quite know what to do with himself. As the day flowed from one thing to the next, he sat dumbfounded trying to take the whole thing in. This was not his quiet home, with mounds of legos and dragon coloring books to keep him company. His days then were a serene river of calm, punctuated by episodes of Pocoyo and his crying sister. This…. this spectacle before him, was another beast entirely.
“Majd! Go sit in the chair behind Theodore. Time-out and be quiet.”
Majd slowly made his way to where Teddy was sitting. To be fair, Majd did sit and he did try to be quiet. But sooner or later, it was bound to happen that he’d talk to the nearest sentient being.
“Hey,” he whispered hoarsely to Teddy. “Hey you.” Teddy looked behind him.
“Do you know what negative number is?”
Majd’s accent, thick and singular, hardly got his question across to Teddy. Teddy thought he might be talking about a video game, or maybe a foreign country called “Negateeve Nahmbear”.
“Negative number! You know what is?”
Teddy shook his head.
“When you count down – 5, 2, 3, 1 – where do you stop?”
“One?” Teddy said sheepishly. Majd shook his head.
“Zero?” Majd shook it harder.
“Keep going! Backwards!”
At that, Ms. Flanners realized the two were having a conversation and sent both Teddy and Majd out of the room. This was, of course, meant to be a punishment. But it turned out to be Majd and Teddy’s favorite moment of the day. Majd took delight in expressing his vast knowledge to little Teddy, and Teddy was delighted to have made a friend.
“Eon Must landed first rocket to earth! We go to Mars soon!” Majd was going to be an astronaut. He asked Teddy what he was going to be. Teddy said he didn’t know.
The rest of the day was much of the same – the teacher talking, the kids barely comprehending. But Majd, having found someone who wanted to hear him, quieted down just a little bit more, and Teddy, having found someone to be with, opened up.
At the end of the day, Majd’s father drove up to pick up his boy. As Teddy remembers it, the vehicle was a gorgeous, orange 70’s Corvette. It was, in reality, an orange Datsun. But it looked nothing like his mom’s minivan, so whatever it was, it was a step up. Majd excitedly asked him to let Teddy come over to the house.
“Teddy is good friend papa! Can he come?!”
“Of course!” Looking at Teddy, he asked, “Your parents ok you come?”
Teddy didn’t understand the question. The accent and grammatical phrasing confused him. But with the Corvette in front of him and his new friend begging him to come, he thought it best to roll with it. He nodded slightly, and taking off his backpack, he stepped into the car and they drove, what seemed to him, far, far away.
©HJLabre 2019, Pic: rawpixel.com/shutterstock.com