Last month as I walked down the hallway to pick my students up from lunch, X swirled like a dervish down the hall.
“Mrs. Hogan! Mrs. Hogan!” he cried.
“X,” I said, “What’s up? Why aren’t you at lunch?”
“But there are chicks!” he cried. “You have to see!” He grabbed me by the arm, tugging me toward a nearby room.
“Ok! Ok!” I said, laughing and moving into the room.
He pulled me over to the incubator. “Look! This one just got out! Oh! This one’s all fluffy now! ” He pointed. “And here’s a beak over here! Do you see it? Do you see it? Right here!” He pointed again.
He warbled with excitement and practically danced up and down, moving around the incubator, peering in from different angles.
“Aren’t they cute?” he asked, beaming from ear to ear.
We admired the chicks together for a minute or two. X chattered on, sharing all the changes that had occurred since he’d last visited them, apparently on the way in from recess. I finally had to drag us both away to get on with the day.
About 45 minutes earlier on the way to recess, X had shuffled along beside me.
“My dad had to get a new chip,” he said. “He has to start again.” He looked up at me and paused. “He didn’t stay clean and serene.”
“Oh, X, I’m so sorry,” I said, at a loss for words, knowing his father had just returned from six weeks of rehab. I took a deep breath and muttered some more inadequate words of encouragement–something about every day being a new day and his dad having lots of support. Stupid empty words. My heart ached.
We neared the door to the playground, and he looked down at his hand, revealing a small object.
“Why’d I bring this?” he wondered aloud. “I don’t want to lose it outside.”
“I can put it in your cubby,” I volunteered, thankful to be able to do something concrete to help this child.
He dropped the object in my palm and headed outside to recess. I looked down at the item in my hand. It was a small, white, plastic keychain. On one side it was emblazoned with shiny gold letters. NA. Narcotics Anonymous. I turned it over and read the motto. “One day at a time.”
For a brief moment my hand clenched fiercely on that keychain. I felt its edges dig into my palm. I wanted nothing more than to hurl it down the long hallway and out the front doors. I imagined the force of my throw sending it blazing through the air far away from the school, far away from X, far away from all these innocent children.
Instead, I walked back to the classroom and carefully put it into X’s cubby.
The first thing he did when returning to the classroom was to check that it was there, waiting for him.
Unfortunately, I think it always will be.