Phone Talk

I’m on the phone at work, answering some standard questions, nothing serious, just information passing from me to a woman. She offers that she’s working at home — she’s employed by the Barre, Vermont, school system. Barre closed up their schools awhile ago, when Covid spread through the town.

I offer a few words of thanks, and then her words keep unraveling. She works with kids at risk, and she knows kids who live in cars. Immediately, I glance through the window at the gray November day, on the verge of snow. Maybe, she says, the families have vouchers for a motel rooms.

I lay down my pen. For those moments, I keep listening.

The woman has moved here from Elsewhere, and she keeps talking about those hidden, or not-so-hidden pockets of deep poverty in Vermont. I think of my own daughter, home alone, in our warm house, with her two sleek house cats. Eventually, I say the only thing I can think to offer: thank you, just thank you.

She asks for my name again, and I spell out my strange name carefully, first and last names. When we hang up, I step outside in a rain that’s just beginning to fall. There’s no birds out today. The road is empty.

Inside, I dial my daughter who asks, suspiciously, why I’m calling.

I’m calling, I say, to say hello. What’s up? How are your cats?

Photo by Gabriela S.

In the Journey

In these warm September days, the little boys who live across the street dig in their dirt driveway, holding up their tractors for me to admire, their faces covered with dirt. The older boy, who’s heading into whatever might be kindergarten this year, wears his Spiderman suit everyday.

Our two houses are at the end of the one-way road. The two brothers, this summer, have begun dismantling the road’s pavement, picking up the broken asphalt pieces and building a tower in their driveway. I look at the tower with immense pleasure. Sure, the world may be falling down around us, but here’s two little boys, recreating the world.

I can’t help but wonder if someday these boys will remember the Covid time as the summer of digging, like I remember the summer of my brother’s fourth year as the time he dug a bear trap — and then fell into it.

On our end, with my daughters, we canoed out to an island of hemlock trees, a beautiful place, silent but for the water lapping the shores and a loon calling across the pond. The girls packed sandwiches and apples and a bag of potato chips. We ate everything and then rowed across the pond. Why not? This is where we are. What’s the rush to go anywhere?

On the eve of school (possibly) reopening, I keep thinking of Maria Montessori’s wisdom….

Preventing war is the work of politicians, establishing peace is the work of educationists.
― Maria Montessori

Nichols Pond, Woodbury, Vermont
Photo by Molly S.