the teacher

the teacher

As any sibling understands, there is no level playing field when it comes to parental attention, but instead a constant battle for Mom or Dad’s love as expressed through: who got to sit in the front seat of the car/who got to sit on Mom’s lap/who got one last bedtime story/who got the extra helping of dinner/who got a more expensive birthday present/who got to stay up later by what age/who didn’t have to do such n’ such chore or worse: who got an impromptu Slurpee from 7-Eleven that one time on the way home! The list of perceived microaggressions is, of course, both endless and constantly tabulated. It begins with the ripping of a beloved toy (that’s MINE) from the other brother or sister’s hands, sharpens to anguish when the actions of one get blamed on everyone (all of you kids get to bed!), and surprisingly continues all through adulthood. It seems to be the one developmental tic we are unable to outgrow. I’m not sure why we’re wired this way – I assume some primordial survival instinct – but it seems prevalent across all cultures and ages.

This is perhaps a funny, circuitous set up for the poem below, but the point being that when I recently wrote and shared a piece about my teenage son (skrt skrt – see earlier blog post), I instinctively knew that my daughter would immediately ask me where her poem of enduring love was. And of course, within minutes of her reading that poem she called me (in tears because she loved the poem, and loves her baby brother to bits) to demand a swift balancing of the scales. So, here it is my darling, beautiful girl. May it keep the peace to know my love was never in finite supply.

The Teacher

I search your face constantly
Wanting to claim you I suppose
But it remains an unsolved puzzle because when I look at you I don’t see me
Instead, you look like his side of the family
Soft, gentle features instead of my pointy angles and furrows
Delicately pale like a budding crocus
Skin too soft to bear the vulgarities of life

I worry over your lack of guile
Perceiving your openness and trust as frailty
I push you
Eager to harden your edges and give you the armour I seemed to need throughout my life
But it never seems to stick on you
Melting away like a spring frost
You turn to the sun, or perhaps it to you

You see things very clearly
So observant from your quiet perch
Effortlessly casting lines that capture light from dark
Witness to whimsy and fairytale as easily as shadow and pain
Small hands smudged with ink
You see dancers in rose petals
You see sadness in a stare

When you sing it pulls goosebumps to my skin
You radiate innocence and power
I want the world to hear you, to feel their blood stir
You champion for the red and the black
For la vie boheme and for unrequited love
But shine brightest with songs of those finding their own voice
Life imitating art without irony

Maybe it is our insides that are most the same
Hopeless romantics imagining beauty
Bursting with stories and images
Compelled to share our version of it with the world
You named me a writer before I could hold the word in my mouth
How does a mother repay the gifts of a child?
How have the tables already turned from student to teacher?

I suppose you are perfectly you, and it is my vanity alone that wants to make you mine.
But sitting in a restaurant one night I watched you describing your plans for the future – so calm, so grown up, so excited for life. Your hands danced in the air, painting pictures full of unknown possibility, free from cynicism, free from roadblocks I foresaw placed in your path. In that moment it all became clear. I finally saw me in you. I saw me standing at the beginning again and my heart ached for all the tragically beautiful, blood pumping hurt and wonder ahead of you. And I spilled tears for both of us.