One of my principle clients is a major metropolitan school district. That means, I have to be present at various schools for various school functions all over Houston. I interview teachers, principles, 80-year-old crossing guards .and hair net wearing Lunch Ladies named Doris who’ve been doling out slabs of edible what not to the tiny hungry masses for the past 25 years: same shoes….same hair net….same lunchroom, in some cases.
And sometimes when the moon and stars align just right, I’ll get to interview smart kids in accelerated programs. This is enriched education at its best; for those young, nimble minds that can deduce square root as fast as they can discern the a square-toed boot. Somehow, these gifted kids are worldly without ever having left the city of Houston. I love spending time with these little adults crammed into prepubescent bodies. Invariably, I leave them exhausted, but always better for the wear.
Today was no exception.
And today, we were talking about the costumes they’re preparing for the big school “Harvest Festival” on or around October 31st. Anywhere else you could say Halloween, but no ma’am….not at this particular school, not in this ISD. I understand why–some religious and non religious fundamentalist types with ACLU backing will always pee on a good time. Okay fine, but come on! “Harvest Festival” sounds far more Pagan or Druidic than even Samhain for that matter. But with age, I’ve become very complacent and therefore reticent to even open my mouth. I don’t make waves–it just isn’t as much fun as it used to be, so I oblige, though God help me trying to figure out why any scary, self-respecting, re-animated Frankenstein in full bolts-in-the-neck makeup would be seen bringing in the sheaves.
And diggin’ it.
The kids wanted to talk about their costumes. Some child with all consonants in her name wants to be a witch. Young Sebastian will be a Grim Reaper. He’s looking for a toy scythe even as I type. Celestine (guess Mom liked the prophetic book) will be a cheerleader with a stab wound and young Isaiah was looking through his mom’s photo album and happened across a pic of his 84-year-old great grandmother Sophie who based on the photo, went as a hobo at Halloween. He showed me the picture.
It was presumably his great-grandmother alright, but she wasn’t dressed in a hobo costume. As best I could tell, this was just a photo that captured a sad day in the life of a poor kid trying to survive the Great Depression.
I offered a perfunctory smile and exited the subject by asking if any child wanted to tell me about the Harvest Festival. Young Sakirona told me there would be rides. Lontrell said he was looking forward to the face painting. LaQuszzha was excited about all the candy and John (yes, there was actually a child with a normal everyday name) wanted to experience watching the sleight of hand as only a magician can perpetrate. And frankly, it would take a magician to make anything even remotely candy-ish appear at this particular “Harvest Festival”. No, the kids attending this progressive thinking school can anticipate treat bags filled with individually wrapped apple slices, snack-sized boxes of raisins and the always kid popular raw zucchini slices.
Then it was my turn to be amused. They got up to show me a dance they’ll be performing at the “Harvest Festival”. They raised their hands and then bent to the ground and then stood back up and twirled. They raised their arms again with eyes closed and whirled some more. It was creepy. I just knew at any minute a young, nubile virgin was going to walk in the room, taken to an altar where her sacrificial flaying would take place.
But one child didn’t dance.
In fact, this was one I hadn’t even notice. He’d been so quiet. His name tag stated he was Marshall. I walked over and sat by him but as if I had B.O that could kill Kurds, he moved away grimacing.
No response. He just sat there, watching LaQuszzha and company perform some rhythm homage that I could only guess was to appease Danu, the Great Mother of the Gods and the highest ranking deity in the Celtic pantheon.
“Wanna tell me about your Harvest Festival costume?”
He just scowled and turned his head slowly to make sure I saw his face. He wanted me to be completely aware of the fact that I was annoying him all to hell and back. I decided to win over this 10-year-old silent contrarian if it was the last thing I do.
“So Marshall, how’s school going? Love your classes?” He obviously didn’t like the query because he quickly turned his head toward me and made the ugliest face I’d ever seen. Eyes squinted, nose curled; tongue protruding through very large, oddly spaced teeth. If he wanted to go as a gopher at Harvest Festival, he was halfway there.
“You know Marshall, when I was your age, I can remember making ugly faces out on the school playground. In fact, it was even worse than the one you just made. And one of my favorite teachers saw me and told me to stop. If I didn’t, she said my face would freeze and I’d look like that forever.”
With that, the angry little ten-year old said without missing a beat, “Well, you can’t say you weren’t warned!”
I predict Marshall will be Vice President in 2032.