On a mess of a Tuesday, one where kids had to stay packed in classrooms for an entire morning due to heavy rainfall – a lunchtime fight unfolded like script from an old movie:
On one side stood Anthony, age ten, and a fireplug. Short, stocky, with no discernible neck. Marquis, on the other side was bones and skin. Braided hair stuck out from beneath a hoody. He held onto his belt with the left hand (his signature pose) to keep his pants up. He talked loud.
Enter the principal, turning from across the yard. He saw Ms. Elma tending a third grader with a scraped knee. Then, Ms. Caroline chasing three boys out of the girls’ bathroom. And, Ms. Jeanine, still in the cafeteria helping with clean up. Then, he saw Marquis squaring off. The boy held his belt and took his pose. The principal knew he would not be able to cross the yard in time.
I did run, and as I approached, I witnessed the early stages of a fifth grade fight. Swing, duck, curse, run, repeat. No any real damage, and more flailing than punching. Just two boys hoping to land that knock-out.
Meanwhile, Anthony did not waste time. He missed with the left. But the right landed. Marquis released the belt. Then his jeans dropped. His knees went out and he face-planted, flashing his striped drawers to the clouds above. Sad. Funny. Who knows?
In sorting out the aftermath, I learned that the antecedent was a blow-out brawl between the boys’ mothers. Alcohol, noise, a squad car, flashing lights, a very big night. I thought it best to take the boys on a walk. I called the office and said we’d be back soon.
We walked a half mile from school to where a grove of huge redwoods remains. I call it tree school and I go there when I need to clear my mind. When a child has a fight or loses someone he loves, we sometimes go there.
The three of us stepped into a clearing at the center. Then, the rest of the world stopped. Wind howled through the branches and the air kissed the nose with a unique sweetness. Marquis with pants reclaimed but dignity dented, and Anthony with a split knuckle, stood to each side of me. I spoke:
Look at these huge redwoods. What do you see? What do you hear?
Neither boy replied. So we stood. Then, sun broke through and a full light sparkled along branches drooping with rain water. A rainbow of light danced along the ground and on the three of us – so brilliant that we all pulled in a quick breath. Sunlight was taking us all the way in.
You can feel it, can’t you. Take note, gentlemen. This place is a special place and it’s talking to you. Stand still. Let the sun shine through you. That will help you let the fight go.
We waited. Wind came and went. Clouds passed above. Trees watched. Then, just silence remained. Both boys at their feet, and then up at me.
They nodded, and I knew it was done. I can’t explain how these wonders work.
We turned to go. All of us had repair work to do. For the moment, nothing more to say but thank you.