Monday, March 28, 2011

always summer

One of my students is a very clever girl, a rare thing I've realized. She's 10 years old and applying for boarding school. She manages to sit patiently through 2 hour lessons of mapping sentence grammar and gravely talk about world issues like the death penalty, environment, Libya, the problems of poverty, the middle east conflict.

Most of the time she gives very nuanced answers, but I can tell that there are times when steadfast childlike logic takes over. "Why can't we just tell them to stop fighting" was one. "Why can't we just split the land in half? Right in the middle." It's almost painful for me to have to respond with a counter argument, so that she has to consider the "worldly realities" when she has such pure answers already.

I know that increasingly simple answers are considered naive, and it's true that people with steadfast conviction and stubborn faith sometimes frighten me, but in a child, it is a lovely thing.
Anyway last lesson I asked her to write about a childhood memory, as a kind of break from essays about war and poverty. I thought like most girls she'd write about going to an amusement park, or her favorite birthday party. I asked her to read it aloud, and I soon realized she was writing about the last day with her dog.

It was a simple story about the dog she'd grown up with, one of two puppies that their family had adopted, one for her and one for her sister. Yellow Labradors with "gold fur the color of the sun's smile in summer" she said. Her dog had to be put down because of cancer, and she wrote that they'd had a picnic and a tea party so that "her dog wouldn't know what was going on", and that they'd taken one last family photograph in the mountains before they took the dog to the vet.

I had managed to hold it together, until the end when I rather unprofessionally started crying. "I used to worry and wonder whether there's a dog heaven. But I don't wonder anymore, because I can see her running there. It's always summer, and she looks so happy... I know that she's waiting for me like she always did."