Friday, June 4, 2010

When Worlds Collide

Yesterday the girls and I made a special trip: to meet the Baby Echos. We'd been invited by their classroom teacher in honour of their end-of-year class project: a Kool-aid stand. The Charlie Brown-style booth made of cardboard and a thigh-high table was painted every colour of the rainbow with the words "Kool-aid 10¢" in awkward six-year-old printing. Each child had contributed to the operation with either powder packets or cups and would take their turn manning the stand over the course of the day. The whole school had promised to visit, so it was bound to be a profitable venture.

When we entered the room, chaos ensued. Staggered verses of 'Hi, Mrs. Melissa,' filled the air followed a series of hip crushing hugs from Alisha, Marques, Jamal and Tyrone. Miguel waved from where he was clearing the breakfast dishes. Jacob watched from across the room, curious but shy of the two big girls I'd brought with me. Keshon, the tireless wannabe Echo, fired questions faster than I could answer.

"What's they names? How old are them? Do they eat lobster?"
I introduced the girls and told Keshon to ask his questions to Emma and Mouse himself.
"Do you eat lobster?"
Mouse shook her head. Emma said, "No."
"Do you eat fish?"
Mouse made a face. Emma said, "Sometimes."
"Do you eat shrimp?
"We eat chicken," said Emma, cutting to the chase.
"Me, too," said Tyrone, who had been listening to Keshon's interrogation. A bunch of the other kids said they liked chicken, too. Common ground in poultry. Who would have guessed it?

We stayed for the Pledge of Allegiance and three cups of Kool-aid before leaving them to their day. On our way home we shared an interesting discussion about what they observed. Why did almost all those kids have dark skin? Why did they eat breakfast at school? It was a version of similar talks we'd had before about poverty and the inequities that still persist between the races. We dipped our toes into American history, slavery, emancipation, and how public education is funded. It was an amazing discussion peppered with exclamations of, "But that's not fair," from both girls. (Grade-schoolers are amazing injustice detectors.) It is a topic we've visited before and will again, though probably not the same way, with the taste of some of the best Kool-aid on the planet still on our lips. That can only happen once.

1 comment:

  1. There is no better way to learn about something than personal encounter.