Sometimes I see Nick’s kindergarten teacher when I’m at the school picking up students with my school bus. A couple of days ago she asked me if I had a few minutes, because there was something of Nicholas’ she wanted to show me. A tendril of grief uncurled inside my stomach, and I almost told her I didn’t have the time. My chest felt heavy when we entered her classroom. I expected some sweet, childish creation of Nick’s she had found among her things, instead, she unfolded the kindergarten project she had undertaken with her class of 1992 at Tarry’s elementary school in Thrums, BC.
It was a beautifully crafted quilt made of individual squares of material on which the children had drawn colorful pictures. She pointed at Nick’s artwork of dancing stick people among flowers, a rainbow and the sun, and I recognized the hand printing of Nicholas’ name as his teacher’s, because it had come home on his many papers and drawings.
She spoke of the other children who were a part of the quilt’s creation like someone talking about her own children. Touching each square she told me who had moved away, and who was graduating this month. (Nick’s graduating year… sigh). I worked on swallowing the lump in my throat.
Laying a finger on one square she told me this boy, now leaving high school to start his young adult life, was battling Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. Looking upon his innocent childish drawing my grief and anger for the cruelties of childhood illness tangled with relief that Nick’s suffering was over. When she turned away saying she had promised herself she wouldn’t cry my grip on my emotions broke, and we both wiped at the tears running down our cheeks.
She gently folded the quilt. We walked back along the hallway and as I turned to leave she placed the quilt into my arms. It didn’t feel right. I had all of my memories and many mementos of Nick. This quilt wasn’t just about him. It was about the kindergarten class of 1992 that became this special teacher’s kids the very first year they left their parents and went to school.
I told her it was her treasure and it belonged to her because every one those of kids were in her heart. As graciously as she had offered me the quilt she took it back. She held it carefully and lovingly, the same way she would hold the hand of one of her children in her kindergarten class.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005