Chart Number 200, Spurts

January 8, 2016

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from these last two weeks, readers!

Anyone who listens to the radio for more than five minutes these days eventually hears Adele’s melancholic phone call, Hello. While the girls found the song amusing at first, after hearing the song over and over again Adele managed to draw them into her world of ballad supremacy.

One day as we drove home from the girls’ strings lessons, Adele sang, “Hello.”

Seven immediately answered, “Hello.”

Adele continued, “How are you?”

Seven said, “I’m good.”

Adele kept going, and Seven said, “If I met her in person I would give her a hug to make her feel better. And then I would ask her for her autograph.”

Given how awesome Adele is, I think that’s a fair sequence of events.

***

No matter how old a child gets, she still needs a hug.

At the end of the day at Nine’s school, because there are multiple classes of each grade, the teachers use a walkie talkie to call out the names of the students riding home in cars. The walkie talkie connects to a speaker, and the kids are supposed to listen for their names and come out when they’re called. In theory it cuts down on the waiting time for the parents. It also keeps kids safe so the car riders aren’t milling around outside in the line of traffic.

In practice this system doesn’t always work out so well. At the end of the school day, despite the teachers’ best efforts, the kids chatter a mile a minute and (in the case of the boys, usually) roughhouse a little bit. We’ve received notices at home about the importance of reminding our students to stay quiet at the end of the day, but there’s only so much parents can do from home. It’s a situation, really, that the teachers need to command.

Of course, even the best of teachers can only call down students so many times. If you picture dozens of elementary-age kids running around, exuberance personified, and the teachers who have to corral them and tell them they have to go out to the car rider line…well, the best of teachers might offer the students tight smiles and words coming out from barely clenched teeth.

Most teachers, by the end of the day, don’t care about being the best. They just care about sending the kids home.

Yesterday after school Nine got into the car visibly frustrated, and I steeled myself. Her frustration could have stemmed from anything. I tried to chat with her in an amiable way, but in the middle of my talking she said, “I missed being called again!”

The words burst from her, and in them I could hear her annoyance with the teacher who had most likely called her down for not responding fast enough when her name came over the speaker. This teacher has called Nine down before. Occasionally her rebuke of Nine is justified, but from what Nine has told me this teacher’s words come out almost in a bark.

I told Nine that she had done nothing wrong. I heard the teacher with the walkie talkie call her name, and within a couple of minutes Nine came outside. She told me she understood, but she still felt bad. The teacher had told her she was always dawdling, and Nine didn’t like it.

Once again I told her to forget it, and she slumped back in the seat. I spent a few minutes keeping my eye on the road, but when I had a moment to glance in the rearview mirror I saw a single tear streaking down Nine’s face. I pulled into a gas station to fill the tank, but before I did so I opened the sliding door and asked her to come to me. She got out of her seat without a word and came into my arms for a few minutes.

When I sent her back to her seat, she buckled herself in and sat up a little straighter in the seat. By the time we filled the gas tank and got home, she’d let her guilt slip from her. She smiled and looked like she felt better.

Good to know that hugs—the offer of them—don’t expire.

***

Sometimes my children make me laugh. Sometimes they make me roll my eyes. And occasionally they make me scratch my head and say, “Huh?”

On Monday after dinner, my husband and the kids’ grandpa took the girls upstairs for bed. At some point I stopped doing dishes and went upstairs to say good night, then came down and finished cleaning. Usually after I say good night to the girls, that’s their cue to fall asleep. Apparently Seven had weighty matters on her mind.

When I came upstairs around 8:45 my husband said Seven had just been in to see him.

“Now?” I asked, surprised. “What happened?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know. She came in and said life is too short.”

I thought I’d heard wrong. “What?”

He took on a pathetic look and wiped pretend tears from his face. “Life’s too short,” he said in a mock whimper. “I asked her what she meant,” he went on in his normal voice, and then he began imitating her again. “Life’s too short. I only have 93 years left to live!”

“I told her that turning a hundred doesn’t mean that a person dies,” my husband explained. “I said that I’ve got several patients over a hundred who are still doing just fine.”

“And what happened?” I asked.

He shook his head. “She just said life was too short.”

Apparently 93 years isn’t long enough.

The other “Huh?” moment for me this week came while driving to school one morning. The girls trotted ahead of me to get into the car while I did a quick clean-up after making their sandwiches. When I got into the car, Seven piped up from behind me.

“Mamma, Di-Di says she’s only really laughed once in her life.”

Uh…what?

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“She says she’s only laughed for real once in her life.”

“I’ve heard her laugh plenty of times before,” I said, my words slowing down toward the end of my sentence. Suddenly I got a bizarre feeling like we were sliding into an alternate universe or something.

Maybe I’ve been reading too many dystopia or psychological thrillers lately. Stories about people who mess with your brain.

“Actually, when I laugh I usually fake laugh,” Nine explained sagely.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, when I hear something funny I usually start to laugh for real, but then at the last minute I stop myself.”

“Well…but then you just turn it into a fake laugh?” I asked, still wondering whether I was really having this conversation.

“Yup.”

Kids. Are. So. Weird.