I reach for a SpongeBob graham cracker, because they are there and they are good. Before having kids, SpongeBob graham crackers were never around.
Max and I read a book together about aliens. He's a good reader. He forgets to pause at periods and often goes so fast he loses his place, but for seven, he's amazing. The book wigs him out and, after we're done, he winds himself around me and stays that way for a long time.
I help in Claire's classroom Tuesday morning. For the first time, the Kindergarten teacher was unable to come in. Car trouble. The sub is a seventy-something woman, kind and energetic. A little terse in the way older, hard-of-hearing people can sometimes seem.
She is late and the kids are thrown off. Most of them rise to the occasion, helping the sub find her way. They are surprisingly knowledgable. One girl and one boy dissolve in tears. The boy, in particular, wants to wind himself around me the way Max did while reading the alien book.
I am sitting on the rug with the boy who is sad, and another boy, seemingly unaffected by the teacher's absence, wraps his hands around my head and pulls my ear to his mouth. "The miners are coming up today," he says. A few minutes later, he does it again. "Have you heard about the miners?"
The sad boy won't leave my side until, when it's time to go, another parent pries him from me. I kind of think Kindergarten classrooms need an emotional surrogate, to help ease kids from home to school. At least for the first few months.
Claire, throughout the hour I was there, shot me and the sad boy the stink eye. She wanted to be the one sitting on my lap.
Later she tells me she wasn't giving us dirty looks, that she wants to help people who are sad. "I like to sing and help," she says. "Those are my favorite things."
She also likes to make sure everything in the house that remotely resembles a living being (stuffed animals, dolls, sock puppets) are in a state of constant, delirious coziness. Not a day goes by that I don't stumble upon a row of moppets covered to their chins with a blanket. And oh, how I love this.
Max overhears me telling his dad the story about the kid in Claire's class preoccupied with the Chilean miners. "What miners?" Max asks. It occurs to me we haven't shared this particular and amazing story of hope, and technical and logistical genius. So we do. And he's riveted. Just before the kids go to bed, the first miner emerges from the metal tube that brought him up from deep in the earth.
Max is moved. Very moved. He doesn't know how to articulate this, so says only, "I'm scared with happiness."
I think, How perfect. Me too, son. Me too.