Today I am a really lucky mom, because I got to go to school with my kids. The van driver let me get on board when I asked if I could squeeze on just this once. With a day off from work, I could think of no better way to spend it. Ernest and Yoshi were just relieved that we did our kisses at home, and they high-fived me as we stepped out at the school gate. Puck would be my faithful guide in the morning, and Tika in the afternoon.
Puck has become a dutiful hand-raiser, counter, and singer of songs. He lines up his shoes along the wall with the other kids in the hallway, knows where to store his backpack, and sits on his own spot on the carpet. He also shoots flirting glances at his mom while he is waiting his turn to speak. I am seeing my baby boy in a new light, I realized. He holds his hands together behind his back when he walks in the hallway so he will get a star for keeping his hands to himself, he told me. He already has six stars, and will get a green rubber ball when he reaches fifteen. When he says his prayers, he closes his eyes so hard that his forehead scrunches up.
Tika has made a few conclusions about the way things work around her. She lines up first for lunch and takes a big serving of rice and fish curry. She was very happy to have me sitting next to her, and polished off the whole plate. Then she headed back for seconds. You get more if you are at the head of the line and eat it all right away. This place is a really great deal, she told me. And when I finish this, there’s even a dessert. Tika has a friend named Joy who rides next to her on the swings at recess. When other kids want a turn, they get off and share, but they stand next to the kids counting down from ten. That way they’re sure things are fair and square. Outside of Tika’s classroom is a bulletin board where each of the kids has written what he hopes to be when he grows up. Tika has drawn a picture of herself with pretty eyelashes and big hair surrounded by beakers and writes that she wants to be a scientist and do her own iksprumits. Next to the picture is another drawing of herself with long hair and a triangle-shaped dress hopping up the side of a smoking mountain, and below it says—in perfect spelling—that she wants to be a volcanologist.