it was more or less the usual bumbling that comes when a boy and a backpack are tumbled together. things that are supposed to get stuffed inside, aren’t. where they go, nobody knows.
only thing was, the clock chimed eight as we discovered the spelling list was nowhere to be had. which led to the discovery that the whole dang homework folder was missing in action. which led to the theorem, posited by young boy, that since none of the above was anywhere in this old house, it must be somewhere in the depths of his school desk. without prompting, he confessed: “it’s pretty messy, i probably couldn’t find it.”
which led to the low moaning rumble that sometimes comes from a motherly creature when she is trying to decide whether to yank out a clump of her very own hair, or grab the car keys and hope against hope that one of the nice janitors will wander with mop and bucket past the schoolhouse door, just as she and her little one are banging away on the glass.
not willing to spare any more of my curly white locks (okay, so maybe they’re silver), we went with the latter, the option with keys. flew through the door, into the wagon, and sputtered along till we got to the nearly-dark school.
from the start, at least one of us knew deep inside that this was an exercise in utter futility. but we banged on the glass anyway. it makes for a loud impression when hoping to teach that one oughtn’t race out the school door without packing essentials.
alas, no janitor. no mop and no bucket. just us banging and hoping. soon watching hope whirl down the drain, and turning at last back toward the curb and the futile-mobile.
once home, i told the little one to sit down with a pencil and try hard as he could to remember the 22 words on the list. or at least four or five.
while he got to work with the pencil, i sat down to dash off a note to the teacher. explaining why the quiz on those words, the one on the morrow, might be a bust.
that’s when a lined sheet of notebook paper came shooshing under the door. i looked down and saw only two words, under the heading, “MY WorDs.”
is that all you could think of? i called to the invisible someone who had shoved it under the door.
“look at it,” the invisible someone called back.
is that all you could remember? i said again, frustration clutching my throat.
“look at it,” said mr. invisible.
and so i did. i picked up the page, and there on the back was a lopsided heart. and another one tucked in a sentence up at the top: “I (heart) you.”
his rumply letters continued: “I am soooooo sorry I’ll make you brekfast and coffe love Ted :)”
be still my lopsided heart.
be still my heart that couldn’t care more for the two extraordinary spellings there in the note.
through tears i leapt up from my chair. chased that irresistible speller straight up the stairs, where i grabbed him and kissed him till he melted to giggles.
then i stood there melting myself.
that he would leap straight to “sorry,” rather than pout or huff ‘n’ puff about how it was only some words, lined up in rows.
that he would hightail it straight through repent, and onto repair–“I’ll make you brekfast and coffe.”
all because of some runaway spelling words…
the child had grasped, without pausing for punctuation, without worry for vowels in absentia, the heart and the soul of atonement, of yom kippur, really, that somber string of breast-beating moments that is launched at sundown tonight.
it is all about actively mending the brokenness. not just whispers of hollow apology, but picking up thread and stitching sanctified wholeness. weave and reweave.
just yesterday i was talking to a wise and wonderful rabbi. we were talking about teshuva, the jewish principle of repentance–repent and repair–the centerpiece of these days of awe, of the day of atonement.
“i have sinned, and for this i am heartily sorry.”
the words of the prayer of contrition of my little-girl days.
catholic or jewish, jewish or catholic–is it not all a great swirl, a soup of humble i’ve-wronged-and-i’ll-right-it?
and it came tumbling in through the crack beneath my door last night, the wise little confessor with the wobbly printing, and the words that couldn’t have been cobbled together in more heart-melting fashion.
brekfast and coffe and sorry and love.
and isn’t this some sweet season of awe, when the 9-year-olds among us can teach as profoundly as all of the rabbis? when the scribbled words on a half-crinkled page of notebook paper can speak to us as loudly as the words of the great books of our ancient traditions?
“I am soooooo sorry I’ll make you brekfast and coffe” oh, my most blessed child, you’ve taken my breath straight from my lungs, from my heart, from my whole.
we thought it was spelling words we were missing last night; in fact we found deepest religion, a subject often best taught by the youngest and wisest among us.
the ones whose hearts are, still, tethered to heaven.
may this be a blessed season for sooooo sorry for you and the ones you most love and forgive and forgive…..
dear chair friends, an announcement of sorts: after years of wishing it seems i am about to start cobbling chair sorts of thoughts into columns for my newspaper. only you won’t find them in the pages of the actual paper–not yet anyway–but rather over on the tribune’s website, in a corner called tribYou, under the heading “lessons for life.” my ramblings will find a place there once a week, on one particular day, though that’s not yet been decided. and while it won’t be nearly as intimate and close to my heart as the words that spill here, nor will it be as sacred a circle as the ones who find their way here, it will be something altogether new for a newspaper, and it is borne of the spirit of what we all celebrate here–the knowing that life offers lessons in the everyday, in the wisps of moments and thoughts and unfoldings. i’ll let you know soon as the first one is posted.
but before we go, one question for today: do you have a story to tell about an i’m sorry that wholly took your breath away?