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I’m no longer a teacher and so little blips of classroom life are like a balm to my old, chapped, children-loving soul. Today I spent the morning in Oliver’s classroom, bandying about the tag of parent helper.  Listening to youthful voices singing out a greeting in unison was Vivaldi to a mother’s ears.  Their eagerness to share components of their lives during carpet time was sweet and the teacher’s patience with the display of what seemed like a parade of tiny papers colored haphazardly with marker slashes and then snipped eradically with scissors was touching.  I loved her probing questions for each diminutive sharer and their precious displays.  I loved when she instructed them to pretend that they were bunnies and reminded them when their hopping became a little anemic that bunnies hop high!  She admonished them to not forget their hoppity bunny ears.  Seeing them jump like that, for that long, added seven  months to my life, I feel convinced.

Oliver and his tiny peers sit in orderly rows, their tiny shoulders cloaked in either white or burgundy, for theirs is a traditional school, complete with uniforms.  Somehow their external sameness makes them seem younger than they really are.  The uniforms are a nod to an older crowd, bringing to mind soldiers or old men in tassled hats, riding in curlicues on scooters in parades.  The little boys’ ears poke out endearingly from their tiny heads and the miniature girls in their kneesocks seem impossibly young.  I feel like cradling them all in my arms, though of course I don’t, for that would be terrifying.

The florescent lights are harsh and revealing.    Chubby hands grasp fattened pencils and painstakingly print letters that don’t always say what they mean.  The backwards b’s and d’s  are utopian and one almost wishes these little ones would never learn how to make them properly.   It occurs to me as I assemble book bags – but really just feast my eyes on stinky-breathed innocence – that these are the salad days where one’s worst troubles arise when the friend you’ve asked to play with you at recess has already agreed to play with another.  That or when you didn’t double check your math signs and so were trounced on a drill that instructed you to subtract and not add like you thought that it had.  These beautiful, stress-free days of wondering where your favorite dragon drawing has got to.  You worked so hard on that thing and it is so fierce and colorful.   It is a pleasure to spy on these little days, splaying themselves out in enthusiastic lives.

I think I might be a better grown-up person if I hopped a bit higher during my bunny imitations and cheerfully asked a few more friends to play with me at recess, without fearing that they might say no.