Friday, April 2, 2010
We used to get Good Friday off from school. The year I went out to Michael Jones' trailer, Good Friday was a school holiday and then, of course, we had the rest of the week. So, like, we could go to the beach or something. Easter Break. Michael was in my homeroom and I taught him social studies in the 7th grade. He was white, had been in ten foster homes and had the worst teeth I think I had even seen on a child. The soles of his shoes flapped when he walked. He was back home living with his mother and younger brother out in a trailer north of town.
So, on that Good Friday, I loaded Taylor in the car, along with two Easter baskets and headed to Michael's home. It wasn't a real trailer park. It was gut-ridden slab of land with three, what used-to-be habitable trailers, perched on some concrete blocks. Of course there was that proverbial dog on the rope out in front---angry, mangy, mean, teeth-baring dog. Neglected like the property--like the children inside.
You see, my plan was to knock on the door, deliver these two Easter baskets with magic markers, candy eggs, and a Game Boy--- to Michael and his brother--and leave. Michael had tugged at my heart---gnawed at it. His situation was too big for me. But, heck, I could do Easter baskets. But we wouldn't go in. No, Taylor and I would stand on the porch and hand over our purchases to the boys, do the whole "Eastery thing" and go.
Duct tape held the cardboard where the window used to be. The aluminum door, unable to be closed completely, was open. Taylor had one basket. I held the other. Of course, like always, I had not given Taylor any instructions. I knew he would follow my lead and just do what I told him to do. Give them the baskets. Tell them Happy Easter. Leave.
When Michael saw me, he grabbed me around the waist and sobbed.
"How did you ever knowed where I lived? My mama ain't here now. Just me and Toby."
I looked past him and saw the bare mattresses on the floor. Not one chair. Not one table. Two bare mattresses piled with rumpled up clothes. The clothes Michael had been wearing to school. On the hot plate were the residual, burnt pork and beans in a dirty, handle-less pot. No tv. No lamp. No mama around. Two young boys.
"Well, Taylor and I brought ya'll some Easter baskets. Tell your mama we came by."
Chit-chat. I, repulsed by the decay, gave in to my own sense of, "This house is in shambles. These lives are in chaos." I think I sort of left my body. I had so much judgement and arrogance sitting right on top of that benevolent coating that I had marched through their door with.
Without one word, without one smirk of "Isn't this just pathetic?" Taylor moved past me and plopped himself right down on that bare mattress on the floor. Right on their mattress. The voice inside my head was shouting, "Lice! Fleas! Urine! Grime! Don't touch that!"
But Taylor sat. And he waited for Michael to sit.
"Looks like he likes our bed," Michael shared. "It ain't made up yet."
(Made up??? Heck, there hadn't been any sheets in this trailer for years!)
My dis-ease, my un-ease, my anxiety was rising up around my throat. How could Taylor just walk in here and sit himself down there on that...on that....on that...filth---that child's bed/chair/sofa/rug/comforter/all purpose place?
I guess that's when the stillness came. Right on that bare mattress were the Easter baskets. Taylor, Michael and Toby all piled in together on Good Friday. One little group. Connected. Joined. Doing their own form of Easter.
And there was I ---apart. Afraid. Looking at life from a distance. A visitor. I would not allow myself to land in that space. I was too good; I was better.
I was on spring break---getting ready for Easter.
I had not given Taylor instructions that Friday.
He did not follow my lead.
He moved without fear; he moved towards love.
Taylor saw Michael and his brother as people.
He sat down with them.
He sat where they sat.
He was just where they were ----as if it were any Friday.