Article

Childhood

conversations with hank

 

Hank: Mama, did you like your childhood?

Me: (taken back) Yes, very much.

Hank: What was it like?

Me: I think of my childhood in two sections. When we lived on Sunset Boulevard in Illinois and when we lived on Brooklyn Street in Ohio.

Hank: Which did you like best?

Me: They aren’t comparable. Those two parts of my life were so very different. In Illinois we lived on a street with a ton of other kids. My friends and I would meet outside and we would never play indoors. Even if you tried to go inside the mommies would pitch you back out again. Your Uncle Jesse and I had the best backyard on the block. We had a climbing tree and a garden and a swing set and we had a kickball diamond worn into the grass.

Hank: What’s Kickball?

Me: (pause, shocked) I will teach you about kickball.  It’s an american game kinda like if futebol (soccer) and baseball had a baby.

Hank: What’s baseball?

Me: (facepalm) For that conversation I will need visual aids. It’s a sport where they throw the white ball and hit it with a bat.

Hank: Oh. I think I have heard of that, but you can tell me later. Tell me more of this story, please.

Me: We had a hill for rolling down and the side of our garage for collecting and smashing rocks. A long driveway for chalk drawing and the front yard had a big tree stump for mud-pie picnics. We knew everyone in every house and you uncle Jesse saved up his money for what was called a boom-box which was one of the first personal music players that wasn’t a radio. It ran on these huge D batteries and we would walk up and down the block carrying the boom-box and parading to the music.  Our cousin Mark also lived with us and we spent a lot of time with Suzie Steen, you remember Caiden’s Mommy.

Hank: Yes.

Me: We didn’t come home until dinner and then we went right back outside. We’d catch fireflies in the summer, rake HUGE piles of leaves for jumping in the fall, build snow forts in the winter and have epic snowball fights, and go sledding down our back hill on your grammy’s cookie sheets and large stainless steal bread bowls and we lived there until I was your age and then we moved to Ohio.

Hank: Where your grandparents lived? We went there with Becca.

Me: Yup. Your Grammy’s whole family lived there or close by. We moved first, just your uncle Jesse and I and stayed with my grandparents on their farm while my parents sold the house, packed and moved. Then we moved to Brooklyn Street which was a dead end road of only 8 houses and we were the last house on the right that ended in a woods and there was a large field in back the house that lead to a water tower. It was so different to anything I knew. It was magical.

Hank: You took me by there, but there was no woods.

Me: It’s sad, but true. Since I grew up it was all cut down and more houses were built, but when I lived there I spent my days running wild with those trees, making forts and catching frogs. There was a path through the woods that lead right to the backdoor of a house where a girl named Quinn lived and we became good friends. She had a big imagination like me and she had a tree house which was so cool. You met Quinn at Becca’s house.

Hank: I remember her.

Me: Living on Brooklyn Street really opened my imagination. There were hawks and deer and lots of critters to chase after and there was magic and mystery in those trees. And I could ride my bike to my cousins houses and we had huge family dinners on Sundays at my Gram’s or your Tia Kay Kay’s. It was a very special place to be a kid.

Hank: And then you moved again?

Me: Yup. When I was 12 we moved to Indiana and that is when my life changed again because I became a teenager. Life was more about friends and drama and school and less about play and imagination. That is where I became friends with Iris and Bill’s daughter Jeni, your Auntie Emmie, Lyuba, and Tatyana, Jo and Bryan…

Hank: Kelly’s Bryan?

Me: Well, he was my friend before he met and fell in love with Kelly (college room mate), which is one of my favorite things. And so I think of my childhood in two parts: city life and country life.

Hank: You had a very nice childhood.

Me: I like to think so.

Hank: I am having a very nice childhood, too.

Me: (beaming) Nothing better than that. It means I am doing my mama-job right.

Hank: Oh yes, you are.

Me: (walking a little taller)

Article

Bullys

conversations with hank

 

(on the walk home)

Hank: (shifting the weight of his backpack for the third time)

Me: Is your backpack too heavy?

Hank: A little, but that isn’t the problem.

Me: What is the problem?

Hank: My back hurts.

Me: Oh? I can carry your backpack the rest of the way.

Hank: No, I can handle it.

Me: Whats wrong with you back?

Hank:

Me:

Hank: (sigh) Today in ginástica (gym class) we had to lay on the ground with our bellies down and pretend to sleep only a boy in my class started punching me in the back and yelling about how he though I had fainted.

Me: What?

Hank: He was kidding.

Me: He was hurting you.

Hank:

Me: Buddy, did you say anything?

Hank: The teacher said after a while.

Me: (wincing) And what did the teacher say?

Hank: He said if they don’t quit hitting he would hit them.

Me: That isn’t very helpful.

Hank:

Me: Hank, this isn’t the first time you have come home with a similar story. I need you to stand up for yourself.

Hank: (looking at his feet)

Me: Truly, I need you to stand on your feet and say in a very loud voice, “STOP! You need to stop hurting me.” I don’t care if it is in the middle of class.  You have a very large class and it is hard for teachers to always know what is going on. There is no reason to allow people to hurt you.

Hank: I’m ok.

Me: But I’m not. When someone hurts you they hurt me. When you are hurt I am hurt. If you cannot stand up for yourself then you need to stand up for me. Tell these boys to stop for me until you are strong enough to do it for yourself. You deserve to not have anyone lay their hands on you, ever. You need to understand you’re very valuable and important. Until you can see that, please stand up for me, because I love you. You’re my partner in crime. No one has the right to hurt a member of my team.

Hank: He said he was sorry.

Me: But did he mean it?

Hank: (thinking) I don’t think so. Why do some boys do these things?

Me: Because they don’t know any better… Because no one has ever taught them it was wrong. Because they want to feel powerful. I am sorry you need to be the teacher this time. It shouldn’t be your job to teach them, but you need to show them the way they treat you is wrong and that you will not allow them to mistreat you. If you don’t stand up for yourself they will never respect you. If you stand up for yourself and they do not change then you must involve a teacher or Professor Manuel (principal). If they don’t’ learn to respect you they will think it is ok to treat other kids this way, too. Do you want that?

Hank: No. (deep breath)

Me: Do your best and if you need help ask a teacher. I can call your teacher and have a meeting of the adults if you would like.

Hank: No… no. I will stand up for myself.

Me: Thank you, Hank.

Hank: (thinking)

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Love

conversations with hank

Me: Ok. Have you removed all traces of goat smell from your body?

Hank: (fresh from the shower, giggling) Yes.

Me: Have you your pajamas, teeth brush-ithed, hair comb-ithed and face wash-ithed young squire?

Hank: Indeed… What do I call you when life used to be?

Me: My lady.

Hank. Oh yes, my lady.

Me: Right then, now you must away on the great quest of dreaming.

Hank: (jumping onto his bed then jumbling under the covers) Mama?

Me: (getting him sorted) Hum?

Hank: Why are you my best ever mama?

Me: (grinning) Because you are my best ever boy and we’re a team. You’re my partner in crime.

Hank: If I ever lost you I would never be okay again. I would never love anyone else.

Me: (pause, sitting) Not true.

Hank:

Me: I have lost people that I loved more than anything else. My heart has been broken more than once by loss. There isn’t a day when I don’t miss them or need to hold them, but I chose to keep on loving. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it and I carry their love with me every day. (hand on my heart)

Hank:

Me: If you ever lost me all of my love and all of my words would stay with you forever. We are all made of love. You are made of my love and papa’s and he and I are made of our parent’s love and they were made of our grandparent’s love, your great grandparents, and my grandparents were made of the love from my great grandparents and great-great grandparents and so on and so forth all the way back to the beginning.

Hank:

Me: You have never met those people, but all of their love lives in you. You are made of the love of your family, your ancestors that have come before you. Love never goes away. If you ever lost me I would always be with you. You would carry me in your heart, but I am never going anywhere on purpose.

Hank: I am happy you healed your broken heart so I could have love from you.

Me: (pause)

Hank: I am happy to be apart of your love-team. (smiling)

Me: (weepy) Oh! Me, too. Thank you, Hank. You make my life better.

Hank: (from a hug) Happy tears, mama?

Me: The happiest.