Sunday, June 5, 2016

2016.05.10 They Came In Bunches

They came in bunches, like bananas, grapes or coconuts, though much more juicy and entertaining.

They walked two by two in two crooked lines, unlike Ludwig Bemelmans’ little girls who walked in two straight lines in one of my favorite childhood  books, Madeline. Most of us, if we are honest, love books that are like us, and I fancied myself as having the soul of the wee Madeline.

I loved the little girls having adventures in a big city, following their teacher, Miss Clavel. My city was New York and Madeline’s was Paris. But Paris could have been mine for all that my mother extolled France where she’d spent time as a child. She'd adored her governess, Mam’selle—who became my Miss Clavel. Besides being the smallest in my class, just like Madeline, I loved little girls in lines and uniforms like my private school made me wear. Girls in lines in uniform rhymed, like the poetry of Bemelmans' book.

Madeline and I loved the straights lines, and we both had a penchant for stepping out of line. I didn’t dare step too far out of line yet, but I knew that Madeline's spirit was brewing inside me.
To the tiger in the zoo Madeline just said, “Pooh, pooh”


The lines I saw from my window are children from a nearby private school. They have dark skin, and are uniformed in electric yellow T-shirts—shining brighter and closer than the sun itself. I watched a series of processions, worthy of any cathedral aisle, go by in ten-minute intervals. I think I am witnessing the most beautiful sight on this patch of earth right now.

It’s June. The school in our city neighborhood belched out these delicious lines of children all day long. I stopped watching and then was drawn back to the window to wait for the next one.

The little ones came first, by 9 in the morning. They were Madeline-sized and supposed to march. The teachers, one at each end of the line, command them to form straight lines. They just couldn't do it. They were also supposed to hush, to modulate their peeping and chirping voices. But it was June and a sunny day—a day to sing the Gloria about.

Their school is the Benjamin Baneker, School Baneker was the first African American astronomer. Everytime I see these children I can tell they are hopping proud of their school—but not enough to stay all summer, and summer is coming very very soon.  How can they keep from singing?

These bunches were headed for the nearby playground and park where there are swings and slides, climbers and monkey bars— and sprinklers (forbidden, I’m sure, though I bet some will return to school having to change into the extra set of clothes each parent had been instructed to bring at the beginning of the year—for emergencies.) Acres of lush green lawn await them, their souls being led by the Lord their Shepherd.

These kids know this. Their lines easily fell askew as the boys danced jigs along the way. Girls, all except "Madeline"who would be running ahead, grabbed their hands and tugged them back into line. They were crossing a street where evil cars could come and squish them. Nothing could squish their joyful gleeful spirits this day.

Nothing could squish mine either. I believe I had glimpsed God —in bunches.

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