On playground duty the other day an older boy fell over playing handball and came to show me his side. It was covered in chalk, all the way down his arm, the side of his shirt and his leg. It was pink.
“Will this come off?” he asked me. “Easy,” I said, “Mum will just throw it in the wash!” “Oh thank goodness!“ he responded as he ran off with his ball. “Nice colour.” I teased as he ran. He smiled back and recommenced his game. I suddenly noticed that the basketball court was covered in designs and writing in coloured chalk. This is not usually the case at our school.
Starring at the ground, I had a “Mary Poppins” moment as my thoughts went through the pavement down the path of my memory to two little girls that I once knew. I saw them at the $2 store with their chunky crayolas; I heard their sweet voices asking me if they could draw straight after they had lunch. I could see them on their knees with their pastel colours drawing rainbows, houses and daisies. They wore cotton dresses and bows as they created their masterpieces outside on the concrete path that lead to our front door.
Do you ever disappear through the pavement to a memory from your past? Do you ever see the pastel colours of childhood; relive the moments of delight from your children’s past? Or is it just me? Is it because I am surrounded by children everyday? Is it because the little girl I thought would live forever came so close to dying? How did this Petri dish of emotion become stuck in my oesophagus? And what do I do when the tears I cry gush over and cause a flood that becomes a rainbow of pastel colours all bleeding into each other.
I deal with tears on a daily basis. They are not always my own tears but the tears of the children I teach. Someone cries in Kindergarten a few times a day for a thousand different reasons. Most mornings a child will bravely announce “I did, the kiss and drop,” as he tucks in his shirt and then his eyes meet mine filled with tears, accompanied with a sniffle. I quickly record his bravery on my board inside the ‘smiley face’ and he finds his place on the mat. After recess there is a line of children who are calling my name, showing me their elbows and their knees because they are ‘needing’ a bandaid to stop the blood.
I try to be patient and gentle. ‘We are all wounded,’ I think to myself and I peel back the glossy flaps of the elastoplast and tenderly dress their sores. Sometimes a child is distracted by a wobbly tooth, or worried that their lunch order did not make it in the box before 9.30am, or that they can’t remember if they were meant to catch the bus. I listen to their concerns reassuring them that in the end it will be all right. The tooth fairy will come, the canteen lady will understand and we can go to the office to call their mum.
I wonder if God gets bored with all the seemingly trivial things I worry about. I wonder if he grows tired like I do sometimes with the children. I wonder how many times each day he tells himself, ‘she’s only human, be patient with her, speak gently.’
Sometimes my heart is overwhelmed. I am anxious because the blood tests are due again and the bone scan is booked for her birthday (the only appointment I could get before she sees the haematologist) . I worry that things will not be perfect and no amount of telling myself that ‘in the end it will be alright’ allows me fall asleep at night. My heart is heavy with sadness and I wish it would rain on Saturday, that the sun would not shine.
Anne Lamott writes “I usually welcome the rain when I’m tired and stressed. Rain suggests you should go inside, rest, try to stay dry. The scent of the rain is fresh and earthly, clean and woolly, of leaves and dirt, wet dogs. Rain gives us back something that has been stolen, a dimension we’ve been missing – our body and our soul.”
So even though it’s sunny outside, even though it’s the perfect day to draw on the concrete with pastel chalk, even though obligation says ‘go to the beach, dive under waves, be happy.’ I pretend it is raining, I stay indoors, I cry, I move around furniture, I drink tea until I have a headache. I don’t allow myself to be kissed or dropped, I don’t tuck in my shirt, I just cry. I let the tears fall. And I fall too, into the arms of my Father. He carries me.
He reassures me that the water that has spilled over the perfect watercolour painting of my daughter’s life is still repairable. He reaches into His pockets for a tissue. He dabs the painting dry. He shows me that He can restore everything. Not the way I intended, not the way I dreamt it would be. The colours of our lives are not sharp, the lines between the pictures are blurred, it’s not comical in anyway at all but it is beautiful. I take a step back and I look at our lives. The dappled colours of light and shade have created something beautiful. Amongst the heartache and the tears an impressionist work has been formed. It isn’t over yet. I can imagine God carrying his stool and his palette down to observe again, at a different hour for a different study. Just like Monet did, we will observe the water lilies from yet another perspective.
He isn’t in a hurry. He knows eternity. He is preparing me for that.
“Look at the light today,” His Spirit instructs, ‘See how it plays, the colours it forms.’ I yield. I listen to hear His voice. I lean in. What else can I do?
I must leave the past in the past. I must see the opportunity provided by the rain that washes the chalk of yesterday from the pavement. As I cry he heals me.
It’s a new day to start again. To delight, to discover and to wipe the tears of another!