Optimism

More than enough occasions of failure to whistle a tune when it calls, but

Enough understanding that when it rolls round again,

I know I’ll rise up after the fall.

 

Too much experience with sadness and grief when it comes to pass

But enough to know that time heals like the cliché.

Unending grief does not last.

 

Too many times of depression to wish it on anyone, even a foe,

The dearth of hope and gladness of feelings

Leaves you with nowhere to go

 

But spiralling down to a sunken abyss where creatures of night fill the dark

And reason and joy depart for some time

While you wait for the song of the lark.

 

Nothing in life is unchanging and that’s the way it should be.

No stagnating pond where fish circle endlessly round,

That’s never a life for me

 

Or others that feel the persuasion, the prompting of spiritual fire,

There’s only one way, the direction is up

Soaring ever higher and higher.

 

That’s just the way it is with some, optimists I believe they are termed.

Nothing in life completely fazes us,

No matter how many times we are warned.

 

It’s a testament to either stupidity or an eternal longing for hope,

It’s viewed by some as unreality

And by others as somewhat of a joke.

 

But it’s a damn sight better than moaning and groaning for what lies way behind.

I’d rather be looking to stars and bright linings

Than staring blankly around.

 

It may be that others are doubtful at intelligence married with mirth

But there’s nothing to be done with nature’s benevolence,

That’s the way I’ve been since my birth.

 

If all of the world was a reality or pessimistic fuelled by the dire

And nothing of hope filled visions ahead

I’d jump straight down to the fire

 

Of hellish depression with no end in sight, just a yawning cavern of dark,

Nothing would make a semblance of sense.

No, I’ll hang right onto my spark.

My Weans

When my 20 year old daughter said she wanted a ‘family tree’ picture I thought she meant gathered around the Christmas tree. Nope. IN the apple tree! So we did. Down the garden, through the wet grass, up the tree. Not the adults. We’re not stupid! We loitered around the trunk.  My 24 year old daughter and 23 year old son started on their patter and my jaws ached from laughing. All my kids about me for Christmas. Sister and her three, brother, future son-in-law. Magical times. Fifteen gathered to eat, drink, chat, laugh and celebrate. And all to do again for New Year. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I’ll be needing a holiday at the end of this.

To chat a while –

an hour

or ten –

and know you understand.

And in the understanding, know

that you are understood.

An implicit sort of knowing,

born of love’s connection.

Blessed,

Acceptance,

Joy,

Amazement,

Proud,

Privileged.

In awe.

These,

my own.

I am unworthy,

but not.

I must have had

something to do with

who they are,

how they are,

the wonder they are;

their personalities,

characters,

humour.

Thanksgiving,

we don’t have,

as some do.

But I have,

in measure fullest.

Blessed,

Acceptance,

Joy,

Amazement,

Proud,

Privileged.

In awe.

All twice.

And again

tomorrow

and every day hence.

Beaming!

I nipped home from school at lunch time today to pick up a ‘princess’ dress. There and back inside 45 minutes. And so worth the rush.

You see, one of the schools I teach in was having a dress rehearsal for the Christmas school panto – an adaptation of Cinderella. A member of staff mentioned earlier in the morning that one girl was without a costume. She had been off school and was not aware that she had to bring a dress in with her today. And she had nothing suitable. Just like the real Cinderella.

I had no idea who the dress was for but, judging from the teacher’s description of the girl, I felt sure I would have one at home that fitted. Well, not me personally, you understand. I don’t dress up as a princess. Much. One of my daughter’s dresses.

On returning to the school and rushing to the class in question I discovered that the dress was for a nine-year old I see once a week for a few hours. This girl, K., is profoundly deaf in one ear and is painfully quiet in class, barely speaking unless directly spoken to. And, even then, in a whisper

When I realised the dress was for her I was worried. This child was going to be one of the Cinderellas! I reassured myself that maybe she had a non-speaking part.

Shortly after one o’clock I sat, along with all the other children and staff in the school, and watched as three classes of children aged 9-11 did their thing. They were great.

K. came on in her princess dress. I was practically holding my breath.

She joined in a song with the others on stage and seemed to be doing well. I relaxed a little despite the fact that she was being overshadowed by two other more confident girls practically standing right in front of her. I wanted to shout, ‘Hey, let Cinderella in!’

The song finished and the next scene was between K. as Cinderella and Buttons. I was blown away.

My gawd, she was brilliant. This bashful child enacted her part with clarity and volume and facial expressions and movements worthy of either of the two ‘real’ pantos I’ve been at in the last few weeks.

Sometimes, people think that Drama, Dance, Music, Art and P.E. are secondary in importance to the principal subjects of literacy and numeracy. Of course, the latter two are important. And I love teaching them . But, I’ve argued for years that the aesthetic and physical subjects develop areas of personality and boost confidence that helps with all areas of school life.

Today, K. showed me and everyone there that there is nothing secondary or inferior in worth in the aesthetics.

She was not the only one. Every child on that stage and in the choir took on roles, some of them humorous – a difficult thing to pull off- all acting and singing their hearts out.

I have seen this over the years with the Expressive Arts and P.E.. The opportunity for teachers to see the children in different learning environments, using different attributes and developing their skills is an eye-opener.

K., for me, was the one who really mattered most today because the difference in the before and after was so pronounced.

I remembered then a conversation from the staff room of a few weeks ago where one of the teachers had commented on a quiet child who blossomed on stage. This was K.!

When her parents see her tomorrow and Friday in the real show they will beam with pride. I did.

‘Ugly’ People

‘Ugly’ people can definitely grow on you. I know this for a fact. Conversely, I have known some really good-looking people whose entire appearance and appeal faded on better acquaintance.

Take Peter. He was not what anyone would call handsome or even particularly attractive. His hair was wiry and stuck out at odd angles. It looked as if it had not seen a brush or a comb for weeks on end.

He was also at that teenage stage where most days brought an avalanche of excess sebum to the hair follicles as well as to the skin. So he had this lank, wiry hair that was unkempt and mostly unclean and definitely not styled. His face at the point I knew him was not suffering too much from the oil that attacked his hair, so generally he wasn’t too spotty.

What was most prominent about him at first were his teeth. They were not buck exactly but they were there when he smiled and talked and laughed. You couldn’t not notice them. They weren’t very white either – more a kind of off-white, but not dirty.

He was a bit odd-looking would be about the kindest way of describing him. But because I didn’t find him attractive I could completely relax with him and that was where his appearance began to change. Peter was what people would call a character. His behaviour was off the wall and he expressed his feelings and emotions freely in whatever way came to mind. I never knew him to do anything wicked or mean, just eccentric. He was what you might call a free spirit and it showed in his dealings with everyone from fellow students to teachers. Everybody recognised Peter for what he was and he was liked for it. I think everyone envied his self-expression. Teachers smiled at his antics and students wanted to be able to adopt his carefree pose to their work and relationships. So, yes, this odd-looking boy of seventeen became for me a really attractive person.

I didn’t know how not to take things seriously and found it difficult to relax in the way he did with everyone. He seemed to be so comfortable with himself and with others while other teenagers, including myself, were angst-ridden about their image and relationships and the world and the bomb. A lot of us took ourselves seriously in that obnoxious way that only teenagers can – where they feel that adults really do not have a clue and do not care about the really important things. Adults become so caught up in a world that revolves around trivia like paying bills and feeding families and arranging holidays and planning for a new car and stuff that did not look at the GLOBAL issues.

Superior teenagers have got to be some of the most insufferable people on the planet. Peter wasn’t like that. Maybe that’s why the adults liked him as much as his peers. He could have a truly sensible conversation about all sorts of issues and speak from the heart with the ease of one not embarrassed to have real feelings and emotions. It may have been his family background that contributed to so much of who he was or it may have been just who he was born to be but I’m glad I knew him.

I’m older now and I find myself remembering him fondly for the kind of person he was and wondering how he had grown at such a young age into someone so unique and likeable when all around him were the usual teenagers that he really ought to have been trying to emulate because that’s what teenagers do. They follow a code – unwritten but perceived and forceful – that few dare break away from.

With teenagers of my own now I want to understand what made Peter the way he was because I would like it if my own offspring could be half the confident person he was at that tender age.