“Guess what you get to do?” Donna asked me one afternoon about a month into her new academic experience. Of course, I had not a clue and figured it was something new she would be showing me that she had learned to make in school. On Friday’s she had Art Class and since she did not have to return to school the next day, it must be Friday, right?
“You get to come to school with me one day next week!” Donna went on, excitedly giving me all the details of the Sibling Visitation Day. I would get to sit at the desk with her and use her pencils and crayons. Maybe, they would even have finger-painting, though she did not know, for sure, that this would happen, but maybe? It was scheduled to be a half-day for the students so the siblings were to accompany the student to class, everyone returning home at Noon. We would get a tour of the school that included the cafeteria but there would be no lunches served that day.
It is impossible to measure the excitement and nervousness I felt when, at last, Sibling Visitation Day arrived! Proudly I walked next to my sister, the seasoned academic! The seven blocks went fast as we waved to folks all along the way and I told them I was going to school with my sister. I was so happy to get to see the inside of the building that had claimed so much of my sister’s day since summer ended.
We waited with the other children in the line that formed at the large double doors outside the designated section of the building. We could not just stand in any line either; my sister knew which one was hers and we must wait in that one with the children in her class and the visiting siblings. At last the time came when a noisy bell clanged and those doors opened to allow us entrance into those hallowed halls of learning. Single file we headed for my sister’s classroom. Fall temperatures meant a jacket for each child so we had to wait our turn at the opening to the cloakroom at the back of the classroom. I could not reach the coat hooks but my sister took my jacket and put it on the hook with hers. She told me that when they had to wear boots, they would need to put them in this room right under their coats so they could find them easily. I was glad that my sister was there because I did not think I could find my own jacket when it was time to leave for home.
Next, Donna directed me to her little two-chair desk. Not only her name and her deskmate’s name were on the cards taped to the tabletop, but my name was on a card, too! Another little chair had been placed near hers. My tummy felt like the Butterfly Olympics must be in full swing in there! Her deskmate probably had a sibling with her on the other side of the little flat top desk but I just don’t remember them now.
“Time for the Pledge of Allegiance,” the teacher said. The sound of chairs scraping the tile floor was heard all over the room as first graders pushed back their chairs and tried to explain to their guests that they must stand and put their hand over their hearts like this. All of the class and their guests now faced the bright red, white and blue American flag, right hand over the place on their little chest where they imagined their heart to be. In unison, the teacher led the young voices in reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance” to the flag of the United States of America. Donna had not told me they did this but that was probably because she figured I would not be able to learn the Pledge yet. Besides, we didn’t have a flag standing in any corner of our house to which we could salute anyway.
For one entire morning, our older siblings let us follow their lessons, sometimes even getting to try to write a letter or number ourselves. Each time a workbook was slipped out of the little compartment just under the table top, our eager eyes anticipated what might be inside the book! School seemed like so many surprises! The morning culminated in the most fun event yet: finger-painting! I had never before seen such a thing! My mother would never have let us put our hands in all that brightly colored paint and move it around on a large piece of paper! It was such a messy, brilliantly delightful, bit of fun! The paper had not dried by the time the morning ended, and our smocks had been hung up to dry. Our student sibling would have to bring it home to us the next day.
Walking home with my sister, I became aware of a strong sense of wonder and peace in my little heart. I had been afraid of that large school building and just could not imagine what it must be like for my beloved sister inside those walls. Yes, I missed her a lot when she had to go to school; but, on the other hand, I could see that she was having a good time learning the things she was trying to share with me each day when she came home. Now, I would be able to picture her sitting at her desk, learning from those colorful workbooks that had her own name on each cover.
As for me, well, the absence of having someone pedal the trike while I stood on the back, rather forced me to make the effort to learn to do it myself. Once I had managed that feat, I was a liberated youngster, riding my trike all around the block as often as I could. It felt so good to pump those legs and feel the trike go faster and faster down the sidewalk. I began to imagine the time when my little sister would be strong enough to stand on the back bar of the trike, gripping my shoulders while I pedaled.
Conclusion? Uh, well, there were, definitely, some good things that came out of the shockingly unexpected major change in my young life that late August day! Thus began a lifelong journey to find the positive in every change that occurs throughout this sojourn on earth. Be assured, without a single doubt, that our understanding God knows that change may be hard for us but that it is necessary for us to grow!
****Reflections on Change … Coming Tomorrow