The Capital “H” That Could
Mrs. Candi Twist was an answer to prayer. She welcomed families every day of preschool in northeast Ohio with a classroom decorated with an array of color, music and excitement. Her greetings weren’t in crisp clear sentences but in song, her brown eyes sparkling as she sang. Her hair was a radiant red, almost definitely a shade enhanced by Clairol. Her clothes always consisted of nice dress pants that were flexible to bend, dance and move around in as well as print shirts that always enforced her teaching. Vests with letters and numbers or glue and scissors. A black blazer with a single lime green musical note down the side. The Robinwood preschool families felt like they were touched by everything fun when with Mrs. Twist.
Our family entered the preschool experience tired and afraid. Our daughter Hailey had been chronically ill as a baby. Although at four her health was stable, her skills were delayed. A team of therapists and psychologists evaluated Hailey with play assessment. I drove home in tears deeming the experience an in your face assault. Hailey refused to participate so the written assessment I carried to preschool labeled Hailey delayed to the point of serious concern. Mrs. Twist recognized the letterhead that first day and tenderly grabbed my hand. Her words were in song, like a fun camp number.
“They are doing their job and I will do mine. Just you wait mom, all will be fine!”
Those three hours of freedom four days a week were a difficult adjustment for me. I felt guilty for not being Hailey’s primary caregiver anymore. Did I fail her because her assessment placed her in a preschool that required intensive physical, speech and occupational therapies? I’d stare at the assessment thinking the words were just a polite way of mocking all my attempts to give Hailey normalcy those first years.
One day after dismissal Mrs. Twist approached Hailey and I before we made our way out to the bus lined preschool parking lot. She gave both of us a tissue paper flower and another song and smile.
“Hailey is doing great that much is true, the real question is Hailey’s mom, just how are you?” I burst into tears and fell in her hug. Thankfully she wasn’t expecting a song back because I instead blubbered all my inadequacies on her red high neck turtleneck with primary color shapes.
Mrs. Twist led me into the teacher lounge and offered Hailey a banana. She closed her eyes for a moment, took a breath, and focused her attention on me.
“Mrs. Allen, I know my techniques seem almost too simple but here is the driving force behind everything I do as a teacher and single mom. I work with the attitude of serving up Hope with a capital H. If I worked with anything less I’d be homeless. I had to shut down my dance studio after my divorce and I had literally no options three weeks before school started. My landlord served a letter saying we were facing eviction if I couldn’t pay September’s rent. There was no song in my heart no m ’am and no way. Yet, I kept that Hope and treated it all like The Little Engine That Could. My ex left letters saying what a failure I was and always would be. I burned them and kept telling the Lord ‘I know I can do this. With Your help, I have Hope with a capital H’. Without Hailey’s delays she wouldn’t be here and able to spread joy. She dances, claps and is starting to rap her ABC’s. She has Hope with a capital H.” I felt a chirpy thank you would be nice but I could only nod and take her advice to heart.
While Hailey gave her all during preschool I brought Hope to my thinking. I started exercising, volunteering, and attending a Bible study. Each day I noticed growth not just in Hailey, but in me.
Right before Spring break Mrs. Twist sat down with us for a conference. Light classical music played in the background as she presented her written assessment regarding Hailey’s goals.
Attached was a piece of construction paper. I turned the page so I could see. I gasped. There was a capital H clear as day taking up half the green paper followed by other letter attempts jumbled together. Hailey was writing her name, with a capital H that could.
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