They are mostly nine years old, the age I believe, when childhood, now begins to transition into pre-adolescence and they become more peer and outer- focused.
I am visiting friends in Texas. They live on a horse ranch from where they also broadcast their daily radio show and a syndicated countdown show. We are working on some projects as well as catching up.
When they picked me up at the airport, Sherry said “Oh, we have a very busy schedule for you Auntie High Shoes!” That’s the nickname their daughter Lexi gave me when she was very young and I bestowed a pair of my high heels on her. They were too big then but it didn’t matter. She trounced around the ranch, the barn, and out to the studio and bunkhouse which also houses a full-on recording studio for artists and bands who come out to be on the Show and record tracks and albums while they are here. She’s been helping do chores since she could walk, more often than not , in her fabulous Marc Jacobs peep toes! My kind of girl!
Along with the 15 award-winning Morgan horses and assorted creatures that have found their way to this haven, there is an ancient pony named Princess, two burros, a llama and a camel named Moses. Yep, a camel. He’s their third. What are people thinking when they adopt animals that will grow huge and need a whole lot more than walks and food?
As we walked up the steps of the charming parochial school that Lexi attends, my mind was on what I was going to say to her class. They are participating in a poetry reading competition that will send two classmates from their school to the county-wide finals in Dallas.
They were seated at their wrought-iron filigree and dark wood turn of the 19th century desks, wondering what this stranger was going to do and more importantly, what she might be asking of them.
Lexi’s dad, Jon, had spoken to them last week and now introduced me. I stood up looking at upturned faces, their cautious eyes following me as I now moved to where their teacher usually stood.
Girls were looking at what I was wearing and then to each other. The boys stared or fidgeted
I began: Did you know that whenever we talk, we are always speaking with two voices, not one?”
They looked at me, puzzled. I glanced at the teacher, indicating the blackboard. She nodded permission for me to use the board.
I wrote “Voice” on the dusty chalkboard, a pale charcoal from many years of service.
“The first voice is the one that makes the sound.“
I wrote “Voice” on the board again.
“The second is our way of telling the world how we feel about what we are saying. The first is the envelope. The second is the message in it.”
To my amazement, they were listening and, it appeared, even interested!
So, when you read your poems, make sure to let us know how much you like what you are saying as well as making sure we hear the words themselves.”
We then went around the room and those who wanted to participate got up and read. Two were pretty good, most were not bad and a few were really self-conscious and struggled with words or comprehension and raced or mumbled through the poems like the Roadrunner escaping from the Coyote. (Sound familiar?)
No matter what they did, I found a way to gave each a compliment and let the class know what I felt we learned from each contribution.
We fear embarrassment more than just about anything. The courage that I saw in that classroom was breathtaking. And, what was even better, no one laughed or rushed the less agile readers. One little girl didn’t have a poem but wanted to read. Lexi said she could read the one she’d delivered. The little girl wasn’t familiar with the poem, but Lexi stayed close to her, coaching and encouraging her little pal with great tenderness and respect.
Bravo Mommy and Daddy.
And, bravo to The Fourth Grade and teachers who give their students courage and encourage them to reach beyond their comfort zones.
PS: Lexi, I’ll be sending more shoes soon!
-Auntie High Shoes