Friday, May 27, 2011

Mrs. Shirl

I noticed her almost from day one, when I'd go to pick up Ethan from school: the older (maybe fifties or sixties) black woman with the big smile and sunny personality. She always arrives a few minutes before me to pick up her granddaughter from kindergarten, while Ethan is waiting in the same entryway with his aide.

She loves to talk. She loves to make friends with kids and adults alike. And she loves Ethan.

Apparently at first Ethan was very shy about her overtures. He wouldn't really look at her, even. Then one day she announced, "He smiled at me today!" as I walked past her coming out of the school while I was walking in. Awhile after that, "He actually gave me a hug!" she reported.

About a month ago, she had a question for me as I got out of my car and she was about to drive away in hers. "Can I bring a little present for your son on the last day of school?" she asked. I was a bit taken aback. "Uh, sure," I could only answer.

The next week as we walked out of the school, I saw Ethan stretching out his hand and waving towards her up ahead of us. "Uh...hi! Hi!" he called. She turned around and said something like, "There's my boy!" Her smile was huge.

"He doesn't know what to call you!" I yelled to her.

"He can call me Mrs. Shirl!" she called back.

The other day I picked up Ethan a little early from school and actually met him in PT near the gym. As we were walking down the hall back to the school entrance, he suddenly forgot everything, because he spotted his friend in the distance.

"There's Mrs. Shirl!" he exclaimed. He began jogging down the hall to her, his eyes bright. He had to get his hug.

Every time I think of Mrs. Shirl, I have to smile. In my mind's eye I see her fondness for my son; the loving way she chides her granddaughter; her hand motions as she directs me to the nearest free parking spot when I pull up to the school.

Every time I think of Mrs. Shirl, I'm reminded of the way the smallest gestures can make the biggest difference. I think back to when I was 13 and dreadfully awkward, and the woman from church, Denise, who only spoke to me really once, but in that one sentence whispered in my ear, "You are so beautiful."

I think of how I can be a Mrs. Shirl, a Denise -- how I can turn someone's day around or life around. There are times I can be so buried in my own "stuff" that I forget to look and listen to the world around me. Sometimes I need to extract myself from my cloud to be a light.

Like Mrs. Shirl every day at Roger Wolcott school, spilling over with something that's most definitely infectious, in the best possible way.

No comments: