4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
My youngest child is finishing her time at the most amazing school ever. She is graduating from pre-school.
I know everyone thinks that their kids go to the most amazing schools. Or at least, as a former teacher, I wish everyone felt that way. But still. Our school is beyond Lake-Woebegone special.
These are some of the things she has said about her school just this week.
Today I played with Charlie. Not Charlie the llama. Charlie the boy.
One of the farmers brought us a worm and the worm was so big it was the biggest worm I ever saw and it pooped in my hand!
Today we went up to the big house to play with the sisters. What I love best about the sisters is that they let us do crafts. Sometimes they come down to school in a big car and a grown-up takes care of them just like a grown-up takes care of us. But because they’re so old and we’re so little.
We got a new chicken today but it stays in its cage because it doesn’t know the other chickens yet and they might bully it which is not nice.
Today I shoveled dung. And it was so much fun!!
There is a wind turbine and a pig name Strawberry. There are donkeys who we are not allowed to feed or pet but we always do anyway.
This school is not for everyone. I have had parents say it smelled too much like a barn or a wet dog… Because there is a barn. Also, wet dogs.
The ornaments they make us for Christnas gifts are crafted from seed pods, milkweed shells, the wool from one of the sheep that smells nastily like natural lanolin and whatever it is that makes sheep smell bad. They are the kind of ornaments that will not stand the test of time because one year soon we will pull out our big plastic ornament bin to find that a mouse or a squirrel or some other wayward critter has eaten it away or used it to craft a home for its young. Which makes those ornaments eternal in a way, too.
The children sing songs about the trees, mountains, rivers, Monarch butterflies, and the passage of the seasons. They make neck warmers from scraps of fleece or stuffed rag dolls out of discarded socks. They do dances for Haiti with their homemade Haitian scarves made from tie-dyed recycled rags or paper towels they will compost later.
More than anything though, they grow wings, and not net polyester or gossamer wings. They grow feathered bony things made of sturdy, confident stuff.
They stomp around jumping from wood fence rails and climbing rocks or snowdrifts or hills that must feel like mountains. And this flock of teachers corral our winged creatures into the school yard, they lead the way tromping through the woods, or kneeling in the garden or being one with the tadpoles and fish and beaver and birds. These women build alphabets out of earth and pile blankets on the floor so the children can burrow under them to hibernate for the winter like mice or whatever it is that hibernates under the snow in the winter, ready to emerge older and wiser in the spring.
I mean, they literally go out to one of a few actual human-sized nests for snack or story or a lesson.
They tuck under trees or in a native American neshwetu, even in the deep cold of winter. Especially in the deepest cold of winter. They are guided and taught, cuddled and read to, instructed and challenged, and eventually, even for my last born (especially for my last born) they are pushed from the nest to take flight.
It is an experience like none other, this return to the things we were born of.
And I hope it is a seed, too. I hope it is a seed that will be planted in their bony feathered wings. Even as those wings become arms and those smelly farm chore boots become sneakers or sandals for the beach or dress shoes for the recital. And that these seeds will sprout somewhere in their memory, somewhere dark under a fallen tree, where the mushrooms grow. And this memory will surface when they are thirteen and painfully lost in a self-hating hormone haze, or eighteen trying to decide whether to lead or to follow, or twenty-two and deciding whether they choose to feed the world, feed their flock or merely line their own larder.
Or perhaps the memories of these days buried deep in their collective psyche will next surface when they hold their own boot-clad offspring, bundled up to march off into the woods for an adventure that will plant a seed of muck and marshes and the earth and love in the next generation. And on and on.
My daughter is finishing her time at this garden farm of a school. Next week she will drag her recycled shopping bag full of colorful drawings and seed pods, muddy boots and feathers, across the cobbled courtyard and out into the lot for the very last time.
Next stop, oh my goodness, kindergarten.
And like the nubs on my childrens’ small backs where I secretly know that their bony wings once grew, I dream they will carry this magical place with them for life.