Quiet Time

I woke up yesterday from immense pain that my doctors have not been able to control just yet, but they are working on it. Anyway, when I wake up in that sort of pain I have to get out of bed and sort of start my day. It’s kind of like how when I was younger and my mom would go out in the mornings to warm up her old 1972 Dodge Cornett. We didn’t have a garage and this was back when it still snowed regularly in Kansas, and the car would have to run for a bit, get all of its bits and parts warmed, or we wouldn’t have heat, might not even make it to school and her to work without a jump start. My body is kind of like the old Dodge now and it isn’t terrible, but it also isn’t great.

So when I got up yesterday morning, it was so early the family was still asleep and I made coffee and took my morning ibuprofen, with food of course, then I sat down in the silence and started working on the family Christmas puzzle. We do a puzzle every Christmas season as a family. It sits on the kitchen island and whenever someone has some time they sit and work on it. This year it’s a Charlie Brown Christmas puzzle and the edges are almost done thanks to Jackson and me. Anyway, I got bored with that after the pain finally went away and so I sat to talk with Jerimiah who in the time it took me to get Snoopy’s feet together, had woke up, worked out, and taken a shower. He was sitting down at his desk when I meandered over to the dining room table to chat.

His office is right off the dining room so we usually sit, him at his desk, me at the dining room table with the laptop and get caught up on the morning news for a bit. Yesterday morning however I skipped the news for a coloring book that was on the table from the night before and I picked up the colored pencils and went to work on a geometrically-correct llama. Then suddenly I was transported back to fifth grade.

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Coughran, would read to us every day after lunch. I think she called it “Quiet time.” She knew we needed a bit of a break, so we would filter into the classroom, she would saunter over and turn the lights off, and we would get coloring pages. She had a ton of them and she would let us choose whatever we wanted and we would take our crayons, or colored pencils, or markers and set to work on our pages, while the sun streamed into the windows, and she sat atop the old heater and read from whatever book we happened to be reading at that time. The Call of the Wild or Where the Sidewalk Ends, the books were as varied and interesting as her coloring pages.

I remember it plain as day now, because it was the first time I realized how relaxing it could be to just color. To sit in relative silence, only her quiet voice reading to us, and just focus on one thing, staying inside the lines. I didn’t have a quiet house. It wasn’t loud, it being just my mom and me (most of the time) but my mom always did have the television on and she was usually talking on the phone too. Sometimes I’d slip into my room, grab a coloring book, and color in silence when I needed a break. It didn’t occur to me until yesterday what a service Mrs. Coughran must have done for some of us, me sure, but even more so for the kids in my class that never got privacy or silence.

There were a lot of different kids in that classroom. A hodgepodge of Army kids and kids with dads in prison. Really smart kids, really funny kids. Kids who got to school way past our math class, kids who were dropped off to wait in the snow for 30 minutes, until the cafeteria opened up and they could grab their free breakfast. There were probably 25 of us in Mrs. Coughran’s class, and I don’t really remember anyone struggling, or not getting along, or being mean to each other, generally speaking.

As it sits today, there are two less of us in this world from Mrs. Coughran’s Fifth grade Class at Anthony Elementary School. One we lost to gunfire and one to a heart condition undetected by her doctors. They were both my friends. One was funny and silly, one smart and stoic. We all sat together in those quiet moments, as students, as kids, for that full year and we colored together in the quiet calm of Mrs. Coughran’s classroom, and while I wish we were a whole unit, and I sometimes wish for days that were as simple as those were, I am forever grateful for the time we had.

Hope you can find some calm in the storm today.

M.

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