19 December 2012

I Get It.

I subbed today.  Sixth grade.  I had been warned by the teacher and just about every other substitute and staff member in the building that this class was, "a really, really tough class."  Last week, another substitute went so far as to say, "Hey, I'll be in the same hallway that day.  I'll keep an ear out and will come running if you need me."  Whoa.  How bad could they actually be?  I'd yet to have a class at this school or in this county that had me punching out at 3:55 and pulling into the Safeway (best wine selection near my house) parking lot at 4:00. But I went in having prepared myself for the the worst.

Thankfully, that was not necessary.  Don't get me wrong...there were a few "gems."  You know, like the boy that thought he would stand on his chair to see if he could touch the ceiling, only to fall and take out another boy who was trying to hide the fact that he had a sleeve of powdered donuts in the front pocket of his sweatshirt.  That didn't end well for the donuts.  After I cleaned up the donut fiasco, there was the other young man who decided he would fashion some sort of flying device out of his recorder, a rubber band and yesterday's math test.  That didn't end well for him OR the recorder.  And then there was Maddie (*name changed for privacy reasons and so I don't get fired).

Maddie lit up when she saw me at the door that morning.  Sixth grade girls that light up when they see a substitute only means one thing...they like to talk.  Maddie was no exception.  After she put her backpack away she bee-lined for me.  Questions started spilling out of her at an alarmingly high rate of speed:

"What's your name?"
"Do you have kids that go here?"
"How old are they?"
"What class are they in?"
"Do you live around here?"
"Where did you live before?"
"Why did you move?"

Once I answered that last question, she got quiet.  Really quiet.  Once I explained my husband was in the Army and we moved because of his job all she could say was, "That's cool.  I'm gonna do my work now."

It was odd.  The questions stopped way too suddenly.  But because I needed to move on and get the class lined up for music, I made a mental note to talk to Maddie later.  I should have known I wouldn't need that mental note.

Fast forward to right after lunch.  The teacher had mercifully built in 20 minutes of free reading time that day (teachers that do that rock, by the way).   As I was walking around making sure the kids were actually reading and not playing with their Rubiks Cubes, Maddie stopped me.

"So, Mrs. Trimble.  You said your husband is a soldier, right?"

"Yep.  He is."

"That's cool."

"Yep.  It is.  Now please keep reading."

"My dad was a soldier too.  He was killed in Iraq in 2006, though.  I was six."

Oh dear Jesus.

Choking a little on my saliva and fighting with all of my might not to let the tears forming in the corner of my eyes actually spill onto my face, I coughed out, "Oh, he did?  It makes me really sad to hear that.  One of my friend's husband was killed there, too.  What are some things you remember about your dad?"

I honestly can't recall what she said other than that his death anniversary was just last week.  I stared at her with a combination of awe and sadness.  Thirty seconds ago she was a sixth grade girl with a purple sparkly notebook and a mean gift of gab.  Now she was the child of one of the 6,626 men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our country.  Now she was a 12-year-old that takes the train into Arlington to lay flowers on her dad's grave every year on his death anniversary.  Now she was part of my military family.

We talked for as long as I could (safely) ignore the rest of the class and then she got back to reading her book.  The rest of the day passed without any major incidents but I could not shake the impact of Maddie and my conversation with her.  I wanted to keep talking to her.  I wanted to tell her how much I admire her for being a military kid.  I wanted to give her a hug.  Once again, I should have known better.  Five minutes before the bell rang Maddie came up to me and said, "Thanks for talking to me about my dad, Mrs. Trimble.  Not many people around here get it.  It seems like you get it."

She's right.  I do get it.  And I always will.


Beth said...

Oh Amy, thank you for being you and giving that child and so many like her (adults and children alike) your listening ear, strong shoulder to lean on and your loving heart.

Unknown said...

Wow, just wow. Maddie is an amazing kid and you are an amazing military wife and mother. Not every military wife and mom would "get it." I know you do and I so admire you for it. My grandchildren are so lucky to have you as their Mom.