It is amazing to me that the shortest month of the year can be so interminable when you’re in the middle of it. The encouragement of friends is a blessing, and I recognize this year more than any other that these friends know to say encouraging things because they, themselves are stuck in the very same month. My friend Laura said the most beautiful thing the other day, and I gasped and said, “Oh, can I use that?” and wanted to grab my blank book out of my purse and write it down immediately. But even though she said yes, I felt awkward and figured I could just remember it. (I swear I remember times when I could remember stuff like that!) My little brain, though, feels awfully mushy right now, and I am still trying to recreate exactly what it was she said.
The essence of it, though, was that as homeschooling moms, as educators, we are in the business of feeding souls. Math facts, sentence diagrams, schedules, brushing teeth—all of that stuff is necessary and good and important to keep up. But she pointed out that if we feed the soul first, it is full and ready for other kinds of learning. When things are not going well—with homeschooling or violin or really anything else, the best antidote seems to be to stop and feed the soul. Breaking routine to listen to music, or read a book, or make a picture, or dance wildly—that stuff isn’t dessert, it’s steak!
Somehow connected to that conversation is our latest read-aloud. I’ve been on a Kate DiCamillo kick recently, and just finished reading The Magician’s Elephant to the kids. (Oh, I love her voice and her themes of love and longing!) There is a passage I cannot get out of my head, where the magician from the title is in prison after a spell he said brought an elephant crashing through the roof of the opera house in which he was performing and crippled a woman in the audience. He is lying awake, staring up at a bright star (the planet Venus, actually) that appears outside his window at times, wishing he could show it to the injured woman, and wanting to ask her, “Have you, in truth, ever seen something so heartbreakingly lovely? What are we to make of a world where stars shine bright in the midst of so much darkness and gloom?” He learns later that there is much to make of the fact that those stars shine so brightly. But both his question and the fact that he wants to share what he sees and wonders continue to haunt me.
Yesterday morning, the morning after we finished the book, my dreamy Middle came downstairs with these words on her lips: “Mommy, what were the three questions the policeman kept asking? ‘What if…?’ ‘What if…?’ What were the others?” She found the book and looked it up herself:
“What if? Why not? Could it be?”
Food for the soul, I’m telling you.