Haruna approaches me in the staff room shortly after my arrival. She nervously, but with an inner determination to not appear shy
, comes and stands next to my desk. She says my name, almost whispering the words that sound like honey
to my ears: Mo-nee-kah sen-sei
? When I smile at her and she knows that she has my attention to herself, she holds out an envelope
and says: This is for you.
When I thank her, she struggles with the appropriate response, which she knows, but has trouble forcing out. After a few stunted attempts, she proudly replies: You're welcome.
I watch my little angel float out of the room, wondering how it is some children can be so delicate and precious that you can't help yourself but fall in love with them the instant you exchange greetings. You look into Haruna's eyes and you see nothing but innocence and wonder. You want to protect her from harm, you want to make sure that she is always safe and happy and surrounded by marsh mellow goodness. You would throw yourself in front of bus, into a pool of sharks, off a building, if it meant saving her from pain. She is not even yours, but secretly you wish she could be.
Inside the envelope is a short note and about a dozen, paper cut out snowflakes.
My name is Haruna.
Are you remember me?
This is a present for you.
I hope you enjoy.
How could I ever forget Haruna. She is an earth bound angel, put here for reasons still unknown. I think she will grow up and change the world, maybe only the world around her, maybe the world that you and I know.
At lunch, I am sitting in the computer room, hiding from the grade ones who have asked me one too many times How's it going? It's my own fault for having taught them the phrase and being forced every minute to reply It's all good and give a high five. I just need five minutes of quiet, to refresh and recharge my teacher self. Haruna stands in the doorway and whispers my name. Unlike the other children, she knows that I am taking a time out and should not be disturbed. She tip toes in and whispers only one word, apologetically. Here. And with that, she places a stack of snowflakes by my hand and quickly leaves.
Three students from the 5th grade have quietly come into the staff room and crowd my desk. I had seen them out of the corner of my eye, nervously working up the courage to come in and complete their assigned task: to escort me to the home economics room for an afternoon of making hot cakes. They are giggling and wringing their hands, leaning their heads together, trying to find the words to get me to follow them. They say my name. They giggle. They say teacher, please, uh.. and leave the sentence hanging. I know what they want to say, but I also want to give them the chance to piece the words together and work it out on their own, without my help. They start to get frantic, nervous, when a miniature superhero in stocking feet slides across the floor, and says, her voice like chimes in a gentle breeze: let's go. Her face is alight with a triumphant smile.
On the way to the home ec. room she guides me with her quiet, tinkling voice, turn left, it is straight ahead, this is the room, I will open the door. She has the enthusiasm and courage that I wish my older students demonstrated. At the end of the lesson, she comes to the front to tell me that she liked the maple syrup. I watch as she practices the sentence several times, mouthing the words. When she is ready, she takes a deep breath and with each word touches the palm of one hand with the forefinger of the other and bobs her head in rhythm with each syllable. When she finishes, realizing that I have understood her, she bursts into a smile and lights up the room, darkening with an approaching storm.
At the end of the day, I say my farewells to the staff and it being my last day at the school before the new year, they reply with the phrase that has been floating around the school all day: See you next year.. I go to the entrance to change out of my school shoes and out of my teacher identity. I have no desire to get into my bulky, winter riding gear and onto my bike when it looks like the sky might open up at any moment, but I have no choice in the matter. When I open the shoe locker assigned to me, I almost burst into tears, the good kind. Part of me melts in a supernatural way like Amelie in the movie. Resting on top of my riding boots, is yet another angel made snowflake. On it, written in pencil several times: She you next deer.