Tuesday morning, I scooted my way into school just before sunrise and from the start, I got little signals that the day would bring something different. For example, I fumbled in the dark to get my key into the lock on the school’s front door. Then, fingers of sunlight extended across the pre-dawn sky and a cool orange glow flooded the doorway. Good morning, I said to no one but myself.
I pulled open the doors, stepped into light spilling from the school’s lobby and got a second good morning from a little committee of eight year-olds who had gathered in a card-playing circle on the floor just inside.
“How did you kids get in? Am I the only one who needs a key?”
Not one of them answered. Hmmm. Note-to-self: Must follow up, but not now. Too much to do.
The kids gave a quick smile, and went back to shuffling cards. I stepped over them and dashed toward my office. Not so fast, I heard one child say as he scooped up the deck, and, with the other four, and fell in behind me. “We want to see your office!” Oh perfect, I thought. How to start the day when followed by a chatting row of children?
Nosy kids too! We we walked in, their questions came in pings:
Is this your office? Where do you keep the money? Can I answer the phones? Where do these (pencils, paperclips, you name it) come from? Can I have one? Please? Who’s that in the picture? Oooh she’s pretty. Is that your mom? How old are you? Are those your kids? Why do you have all these papers and books? Is this where bad kids sit?
I sat in my chair and tuned out the noise as I sorted a stack of messages from the previous day. However, I noticed that their chatter had stopped. I looked up to see Jun Lai, smallest but bravest of the five, with his arms folded. He had been studying me.
Yes Jun Lai, I asked. He examined me again and then spoke: Can I ask you a question? Your face has a lot of wrinkles.Lots white hairs on your head, too! You even have white hair coming out from your ears! How come?
The other four followed his lead and took to surveying my face, ears, even my knuckles. They paused to inventory each scar and sun spot. Thorough and inquisitive. Still, I felt amused – the focus of an open study, as if they had not, before this moment, taken a good look at the progress of an aging white guy.
These kids were my chorus who, with brown, shining eyes, held up a mirror. I got to see myself reflected back, but felt no shame in what I saw. Still here. Still strong.
We inhabit a life from the inside out. Beginnings require endings to find their balance. When sun poured into my office yesterday morning, I found my heart full of courage for one more day. I took stock in a body that could hold the memory of the whole journey. Then, first recess commenced and the children headed out to play. Onward and free from the weights that older people carry.
That time for carrying a load would come but not quite yet. And for me, now sitting in silence, I breathed in gratitude for the chance to witness this uncanny cycle of beginnings and endings, starting once again.