Sunday, May 28, 2006

Another K-Mart Adventure

The "Gulf War Song," by the way, was written during the first Gulf War back in the nineties. It was the first Moxy Fruvous song I ever heard, and is responsible for my long love affair with all four band members. So to speak. (Unfortunately) (Oh, I didn't really say that!) (Yes I did.) (Be still, my heart.)

I was in K-Mart the other day (not WalMart!!!!!!!!!!!) and I ran into a former student. I hadn't seen him for six years; that would make him around twenty years old now.

He's home from Iraq for a few weeks, and then he's going back.

He was one of those kids who had it rough: broken and dysfunctional home, raggedy clothes, shallow roots, scary brother, shiftless mom, no dad. . . . They moved a lot to follow those benefits around the counties. He was desperate for attention. Desperate.

His mother was so shiftless and worthless that most of the time she never made it into the school office to fill out the papers for free lunch for her kids. They qualified, but without the paperwork the school couldn't legally let them have it. And our cooks sure weren't about to let a single chicken nugget out the door without the cash.

(A child once had a diabetic reaction in my classroom and I sent another student running to the cafeteria for a cookie. The kid returned, white-faced, followed by the head cook, who demanded immediate payment for the cookie. I gave her fifty cents and she stomped back to the kitchen, satisfied. Imagine.)

The middle school teachers usually arranged for this boy to have lunch. I don't know what his scary brother on the elementary floor did for lunch.

One Monday he asked to use my stapler. He took it and began stapling the tops of his sneakers to the rubber soles. He did this every period for a week. These were his only shoes.

In my classroom's lost-and-found was a pair of nearly-new sneakers, left there before Christmas vacation by a wealthy student who hadn't even missed them.

That Friday, I gave those sneakers to the boy with the stapled sneakers. I marked them up a bit so the original owner wouldn't recognize them.

They were a little big, but that left some room to grow.

Later that same year, I gave him my cd player/radio; the cd part hadn't worked for a long time and I had mentioned throwing it away. He came in at noon and asked if he could please have it.

He fixed the cd player and for all I know, he's still using it.

But ahem.

He told me that, at age twenty, he had three kids and a soon-to-be ex-wife. And a fiancee who worked back in Automotives. He'd come home to finalize his divorce and to buy the fiancee a new truck.

He gave me his military address and asked me to send him a card. He told me he had nobody who ever wrote; his kids were too little and his ex hated him too much and his fiancee was too illiterate.

I paid for my new surge protector and left the store more than a little downhearted. I'd hoped for so much better for this boy.

And then I remembered the life he'd had as a kid, and I brightened up a tiny little bit. Just a tiny, tiny little bit.

Shoddy as it is, the life he has now is still better than the life he had as a kid at home. Sigh. What a sad commentary.

I wonder how many generations it will take before these people are not dysfunctional by most standards.

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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:32 PM | |


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