Today is my mom’s birthday.
Her parents were told to come home from the war, get jobs, and start families for the good of the country. And considering the short time between the end of the war and the birth of my mom, my grandparents were no slackers in the patriotism department.
I was trying to think about what I would want you to be sure to appreciate if you met my mom and what I would warn you about before hand.
It turns out, I think, that those two things are the same. She feels incredibly connected to the world. She doesn’t mind catch-and-releasing wasps from bedroom windows. She’ll gladly spend an afternoon cleaning a stove or painting a mural on a school wall. If ladders need to be climbed, she’s up them. If folks need an ear for listening, she’s got one. If someone looks vaguely familiar in a Dairy Queen a hundred miles from home, she’ll go up to them and try to figure out how she knows them–thus leading to us mocking her forever by putting on our best mom voices and asking her “Are you my cousin?”
My mom is kind of scatter-brained and over-dramatic. But she’s a riot.
And she’s passionately devoted to small acts of resistance. Some, like her insistence on playing religious Christmas music for her students, drive me insane. I can’t get her to see how, as a public school teacher, she’s a representative of the State and thus should not be running around establishing a religion in her classroom. Maybe she does see. Maybe she just doesn’t give a shit.
But others, like her “Spanish Club” make me so proud I about can’t stand it. She teaches reading to developmentally disabled grade schoolers, but because of all you yahoos who believe that there should be no ESL stuff in schools because we live in America damn it and people need to speak English, a good two-thirds of the kids she sees aren’t developmentally disabled at all. They just don’t speak or read English very well.
Which means that my mom spends a great deal of time helping perfectly able kids learn English when she’s supposed to be spending all her time helping kids with learning disabilities. Your tax dollars at work.
Plus, she’s not allowed to speak Spanish to the kids, even though she’s learning on her own time, so where as, in Saneland, she would be able to say “water is the same as agua” and the kids would be all like “Oh, okay, I get that” and move on with their lives, she’s got to get all Anne Sullivan about it and take them to the sink and poor water over their hands and be all “water, water, water!” until they get it.
But my mom realized that the rule said that she could not speak Spanish to the kids. It says nothing about whether the kids can speak Spanish to each other. And so she started the Spanish Club, where kids who are pretty fluent in English help the kids who are not, while my mom devotes her time to helping kids who actually need her.
What breaks my heart is that the whole reason my mom has set out to learn Spanish at sixty years old is that there’s no adult in her school who is fluent enough to understand the kids or to make themselves understood in return. And my mom is afraid that, if there’s a tornado or a fire or some other disaster, and the children start to panic, there’s no one who can calm them down and give them instructions or who can understand if the kids are trying to say that someone is stuck in a closet or under some rubble.
And so she’s going to be that person.
That’s my mom. God love her; I do.