What is the phrase about a goose walking over your grave? I'm not sure exactly what it means if you're not already in the ground, but I believe it suggests a feeling of unease to the extreme - chills, even. This being the case, I suspect there was a flock of Canadian Snow Geese doing a flamenco on top of my headstone this afternoon as I walked my class up to lunch.
Entering the cafeteria, my gaze lofted over the heads of the elementary crowd, scanning for adults that I might to speak to - or avoid in a few specific cases. When I realized that I had no immediate communication commitments, I settled in to the quiet observation of my students as they passed in one door of the kitchen, emerging scant seconds later, carrying cardboard trays full of sanitarily wrapped food-like items, and a milk.
There was a fifth grade class ahead of us, so I took up a position where I could watch the line snake toward our lunch supervisor who checked names and numbers as they passed by. Then I turned around and came face to face with him. Him who? He was a fourth grader the last time I saw him. He is now in fifth. He looked a little taller, but not much. He also appeared to have been getting fed more regularly, as his face had filled out, and his eyes didn't seem as hollow.
This was a kid who had been given a ticket out of our school a year ago, and had moved just one step ahead of being told he couldn't come back. Ever. Now he is back. This is the boy who drew pictures of guns and knives on papers, books, and desks. He was the one who was rumored to be carrying a gun in his backpack and my first reaction wasn't to assume it was a toy. It was, after all, and much to all of our great relief - but it was that moment that set my heart racing just ahead of my mind. This was the kid that could do that thing. I had spent months with him, trying to find a way in, then trying to find a way to keep him and the rest of us safe.
I told him that I was glad to see him. I want that not to be a lie. I want to believe that the past few months have given him a chance to use his above average intellect for good, and not evil. I want to believe that he has grown, and so have I. Stephen King once wrote a story called "Sometimes They Come Back." It appears in his "Night Shift" collection. It tells the story of a teacher who deals with demons from his past through demons sent to his class. I hadn't thought of that story for years. Until today. Happy Halloween.