I had heard that a new second grader would be arriving and the contact in our central office promised to fill me in on details. I received no call. However, the boy himself did arrive, tugged along by his mother. She shooshed him and shoved him inside as a howl of wind slammed the door behind them both.
The new kid was a little guy. I could see that much. I couldn’t see much else. He stood there, looking dead ahead, wrapped in a white parka coat. He had his head tucked inside a knit cap pulled just above his eyes. His mother held his right hand with her left. My secretary began sliding papers under her pen and she began signing. Mom looked up now and then, but said little.
What’s your son’s name ma’am. Simon. Simon, for his part, said nothing.
With the signing rituals completed, I offered to take the boy to his new class. I invited his mother as well.
Thanks, but I’ve got to go.
She then let go of his little hand, and that same little hand now drifted across the vast expanse between mom and me. I took hold of those five little fingers and now whatever would be would begin. I knew that when a child came to me weeks after the start of any school year, he would bring a little bundle of surprises.
I got my first surprise right away. I introduced myself and said good morning. No answer. I said welcome to your new school. No reply. I asked him whether he felt nervous about meeting his classmates. No comment. I asked him what he ate for breakfast. Rebuffed by silence. Just the woosh shoosh of his over stuffed coat and the pad pad of his small feet.
We walked to the door of his new classroom. Here we are! He stepped into the room. He stopped. His classmates turned. The second moment of contact. Then his teacher chimed in. Boys and girls can we say hello to our new classmate, Simon? She then told the boy to put his jacket on the hook and have a seat at the table in front. He did go to his seat. However, he kept his coat on and set his eyes forward. No eye contact and not a single word.
Both teacher and I exchanged a look.
Once back in the front office, I picked up the boy’s file. Thin, with only a birth certificate and a record of his immunizations. No clues, no leads. Simon’s file was as silent as the boy.
A blade of grass can take wind. It assumes the bend and can reach skyward by design. Simon, blown in on a cold morning, fends for himself. When little souls tumble in bruised and battered, I want to know what they need. Do I hold them up or stand back so as not to smother their recovery. Successful rebounds require the insight to know when to do what.
Blown forward by circumstance and need, Simon has to make his own way. If he can’t, he will slip out of sight. Since Simon said nothing, I am speaking for him, inferring that he has sustained headwinds. Today, he tumbled in out of the rain. For this short while, I get a chance to set up a shelter, listen into the emptiness, and try to buy him time so that he’ll find a way to speak for himself.
for Christopher who survives the wind and keeps leaning forward