Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Autumn/Fall (08/27/09)
TITLE: Portrait of a Lifelong Servant
By Nancy Tilson
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My job was to teach the two-year-old class, always challenging because really, who wants to teach the twos? Actually, what can you teach twos? They cry, they tire easily, they want their moms, they aren’t potty trained. Face it, they are a handful! So, when the door opened that Sunday morning and two new faces greeted me, I’m sorry, Lord, but I was less than enthusiastic.
She hesitantly took one step into the room clutching the hand of an equally nervous, blond boy. She kept up a loud, running chatter as they peered anxiously at each other and then at me. I looked at two pair of blue eyes, and could see what she must have been like some fifty years before: frightened, behind a veneer of quasi-toughness. Now that was replaced by a loud, initially grating giggle and excessively, effusive enthusiasm for the place and people she was presently encountering.
“Come in, welcome.”
“I’ll just stay awhile, if that’s okay. He’s a little nervous,” she said unnecessarily. “This is my grandson, Justin. I’m Lorraine.” She smiled uncertainly.
“I’m teacher Joan, Justin. I’m so glad you and your grandma are here today.”
Her knees giving way at the last moment, she half fell into the diminutive chair at the miniature table. She pulled her grandson onto her ample lap and tried to interest him in a puzzle, all the while showering him with hugs and kisses.
At an almost frantic pace, she moved with him from one activity to another: now a book, then playdoh and back to the puzzle. He seemed overwhelmed and she along with him. He popped off her lap and dashed to the kitchen area. With a tolerant smile, she struggled to her feet and ambled off in his direction, stopping to pat a small head, smile or offer an encouraging word to another tiny tyke. With Lorraine’s help, the morning went very well.
Two weeks later, our routine had been established. Lorraine trudged into the classroom, encumbered now with a load of student workbook pages, a cheap, voluminous canvas bag, and trailed by her grandson, who tugged at her skirt. She plopped into a chair. The workbook pages were sorted neatly into file folders, supplemented with stickers of an infinite variety stuffed into individual baggies. She placed them chronologically in the cabinet she had efficiently organized earlier. Reaching again into her bag, she withdrew several small boxes.
“Hope you don’t mind, but I thought I’d bring the children animal crackers since we were studying Noah’s ark.”
Recently, laughing, Lorraine placed a photo album in my lap and asked if I remembered the pictures I’d given her some weeks before. As I opened the album, I found pictures of my oldest son, not as I’d given them to her, but intricately woven into a tapestry of her own creation. Here my child at three, on a mountain. There, superimposed on a carousel zebra with his great grandmother at his side—someone he’s never met. Now he’s in a wild west setting, astride a rearing Palomino. Next, running rapids in a canoe—alone and victorious although only five. Painstakingly, she had made him the hero in his own album. Over the years, Lorraine has meticulously constructed over 50 unique records, delighting many, many families and helping each child feel special and loved.
This humble woman continues to be a source of encouragement and example as she serves others. “Jesus never quit and I won’t either!” A widow now, she has steadfastly maintained her independence. Her husband’s illness over the last 20 years, and his recent death have drained her limited resources but not her spirit. Her cheeks have looked shrunken of late, her lips too large, her speech impaired as she gradually lost her teeth. Today, however, she presents a toothy grin. She has new “choppers” thanks to the generosity of friends, and she’s not about to let anyone forget it. Pride to the wind, she regales all who will listen about how great people are, how unselfish.
Funny how easy it is to see that…
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