Yesterday, our community was placed on “shelter in place” orders, and we went out to make one important visit.
“Stop!” I held my hand up like a stop sign. “You have to stay away… We have to keep our distance,” I clarified. I felt the lump in my throat grow and I swallowed. I carried the blue canvas bag towards the grass, slid it off my left shoulder, and gently placed it on the grass. He stood there the whole time—watching, waiting, and clutching his hands together. It was an uncommon event. We don’t usually greet this way. He was so excited to see me when I stepped out of my car. He ran towards me and I had to stop him. I could see that he probably wanted to hug me.
I hug almost all of my students to greet them. No longer hugging a student is an adjustment I will need to get used to.
I stepped back from the bag that I placed on the ground and looked up at him. All I wanted to do was hug him. His mother, standing behind him, held her hands together, too. It was like none of us knew what to do with our hands now. I wanted to hug them both. It might have been easier to not look at him, at them, but I did. I had to.
“Okay, now come and take the bag... It’s full of books for you to read,” I quietly informed him. There wasn’t a reason to be quiet. We were outside. I just couldn’t bring myself to raise my voice any further. I felt too much.
He took the bag, held it against his chest, and took it to his apartment on the second floor. As his mother looked on, I told her to wait inside and we would leave all of the food outside her door. I told her not to come out until we were all done leaving the food at her door. “Señora, ahora nos puede esperar adentro y cuando terminamos dejar toda la comida, pueden salir para coleccionar la comida.” So, she did.
My husband and I finished unloading. I backed away from the grocery bags and called on her to come out. She opened the door to see the piles of grocery bags sitting there for her. It was for both of them. She took a deep breath and wrapped her arms around her son. While they both faced me, they smiled a beautiful grateful smile. “Muchas gracias maestra,” she said. I could hear the gratefulness in her voice. On a normal day, it would have been a perfect time for a hug. Today was not a normal day, but it was a good day.
I watched as he picked up the first grocery bag. He noticed the pack of M&M’s I added at the last minute. What are the odds of that being his first bag? I thought to myself. His face lit up like a Christmas tree and he smiled with glee. His smile was contagious… it was infectious. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling, too.
He looked up at me as if to say, “I can’t believe you did this.” I looked right at him and directed, “Remember… remember to read and write every day.” He stood up straight, controlled his smile into submission, and nodded to me as if it were a promise, as if he were a dutiful soldier. He looked me in the eye and nodded. I nodded back.
I returned to my car, where my husband was waiting. I opened the door and got in.
As we slowly drove off, my husband turned to me and we looked at each other. Neither of us said anything. We didn’t have to tell each other what we felt. He placed his right hand over my knee and I placed my hand over his.
We drove home.