I’m saying He didn’t have birthday parties.
And I’m feeling like a cynical freak for saying so.
Then it will get to you, how kids look at Santa and the music and the strange new lights hanging down the streets of your town. It tugs and tugs until it takes you back to a place when the world was magical and mythical and Chewbacca and Han Solo.
It can almost (kindasorta then yep, that’s what it is) cause a new but possibly familiar sense of loneliness to the point you begin exposing all your most intimate thoughts and secrets to everyone around you. Christmas means they are so kind they sit or stand or don’t fall asleep and start snoring as you’re telling them all these grand, profound thoughts you think you came up with.
That’s what I’m doing as well.
Like today’s interview with Nikki. (I gave poor Nikki enough personal information to write an article on me as well. I would like to say it was a sly interview move testing the patience of the interviewee, but no. I blame it on Christmas and Barbara Walters.)
Nikki of red clay banks and pine trees and digging potatoes up with a spoon. Those same potatoes she’d put under a house where it was nice and cool because that’s where the potatoes would keep. It was something she did with her Papaw. She smiles as she remembers that as a kid.
And I laugh because in my mind there is a photo of Nikki as a child. During the years I was away I never considered the fact that Nikki grew up into a wife, mother and teacher.
It’s weird having a ten year old image of someone and then being introduced to their fully responsible adult version of the kid. At first you look at it as science fiction with a time and space portal thingie. Then you have to get to know her because she’s not only that child now. She’s her and more.
Her role as a teacher is the reason I am in her classroom conducting an interview.
Why is she a teacher?
Because she loved a teacher. Coach Sorto was his name, and he taught her geometry.
Why did she love him?
Because he cared. She felt like he really cared that his students learned.
Nikki of I’ll do anything for my students, of “I'm going to love you like you're mine but you're going to behave like mine as well.” Kevin, her husband, jokes that she loves her students more than she loves him. They fill the uncomfortable silence which follows with a few giggles between themselves. Her actual biological children are proud of what Mama does. They watched how hard she worked to become a teacher at a satellite university thirty minutes from home. They witnessed the juggling she performed as she orchestrated a system of keeping those people and things which were a priority, a priority.
What was/is/became evident to Nikki’s children was that her priorities were home and family and education and community. (She will live and die a Panther till her very last breath. Amen.)
She teaches nine year olds Math and Science and she picks favorites who need her most and she tells them that one day when they graduate they will hear her on the sidelines cheering like they’ve never heard anyone cheering before. And those kids believe it and I do too because she received Teacher of the Year during her first year as one.
Because, yes, she is just that good.
What you would see, what I do, is that Nikki is wired in such a way that being a teacher is the only way she can be. She was made for the job.
What a beautiful thing it is to witness, people doing what they love.
Today I am grateful for the homemade chocolate cookies and chocolate covered pecans and those globs of chocolate and peanuts and the children who shared them with me. In the most pegged out, sugar-high kind of way I stammer, Happy Birthday, Jesus! Where’s the cake?