I told Eleanor, on our last walk home from her school, that I remembered her oldest sister crying after her last day of kindergarten because she knew she would be starting at a new school the next year. "But it will be a really good school," I had reassured her.
"I know," she had told me, "but I'm still sad that I'm leaving these friends."
Eleanor listened to the story and said, "Yeah, it's sad. But I knew I wasn't going to be in Sarajevo forever. And besides, with my dad you never know how long you'll live anywhere!" Ah. Savvy beyond her years.
Ruth--who cried after the last day of kindergarten so many years ago--sent me last month an email titled "a poem about us." She's right. This poem perfectly summarizes all the brilliant flashes of wonder and beauty and all the tiny sadnesses that go with this kind of life.
Early Childhood Education
by Michael Blumenthal
Because i want to educate him early
in the ways of loss, I move my son
like a fugitive from country to country,
language to language, house to house.
Easily as wind, he flutters
over the world's landscapes,
kissing the surfaces, lifting
the splotched graffiti of his toys
from box to box like a traveling salesman.
Strange cities pass, countries
in various stages of transition, currencies
and economies packaged and sold like trips
to exotic places we can never visit. But my son
visits them all, traversing the world
to a postmodern music of cities and countries,
murmuring Budapest Haifa Quito Cambridge Austin
under his breath like a National Geographic,
time zone to time zone, vineyard to desert.
In the mere seventh year of his life,
he is already a wise man: He moves
through the world like a bodhisattva,
a Zen monk, a Hassid, a politician,
kissing the hands of widows and children,
endearing himself to everyone, waving
in a universal tongue as he leaves and arrives:
hello good-bye hello good-bye hello good-bye.