“…and that’s why I like batman cars.”
Mrs. Wonder smiled politely and started a gentle clap that prompted the rest of her first grade class to follow suit. Show-and-tell Friday’s had become a predictable time of slow talking and a round of letting all the students touch each object. This week’s theme of “What I Collect” had been a small parade of Barbie’s, superhero action figures, and for those who forgot to bring something… shoes.
“That’s great Billy. Let’s see… How about… Bryan.”
The small boy with wavy brown hair rose from his desk and plodded over to his backpack to retrieve what he had brought. Very carefully he pulled several items out and held them tight against his chest as he walked to the front of the class.
Mrs. Wonder smiled to herself as she watched the internal struggle play out on his soft face. He was quiet by nature and, though he enjoyed sharing about himself, he also feared being laughed at. Bryan was often the last student picked for soccer teams, but he was always the first one students went to when they wanted something to be shared with them.
It became obvious which side of Bryan’s battle had won when his eyes silently dropped to his shoe tops.
“What do you have with you today Bryan? It looks like some sort of cards.”
He turned and looked up at her with the minimal head lift required to meet her gaze.
“Oh. So you collect pictures?”
Bryan avoided words by shaking his head no, but without realizing it, finished with his head level again.
“Okay. Would you like to tell us a little bit about what you collect?”
His small voice grew a bit stronger.
“I collect moms.”
“Uh.. You collect moms?”
Her surprise caused a smile to light up his face. He continued as he pulled out the first picture and held it up for the class to see.
“This is my first mom. She remembers me when I was a baby. She says that…”
Mrs. Wonder nodded as he continued. She had almost blurted out, “You can’t collect people Bryan,” but feared sending him back into his shell. The other students in the class began to get restless as told them about how his mom let him pick out his own socks each day.
“That is lovely Bryan, but to have a collection you have to have more than one of something.”
“Oh I do!”
Bryan pulled out another picture and slid it in front of the first one so that the class could see it.
“This is my momma Winfrey. My dad got her for me when I was four. She lives with him in Georgia. She says that my dad has a cute butt!”
The class erupted in laughter.
Mrs. Wonder bit her lip to stop her own laugh before addressing her class.
“Alright. Calm down.”
Bryan had everyone’s attention now and it gave him a boldness Mrs. Wonder had never seen in him before. He pulled out another picture and continued.
“This is my momma Smith. She lives next door to me. She is the oldest of all my moms. Sometimes when my mom gets mad at me I go over to momma Smith’s and she will make me chocolate chip cookies. This is my momma Klein. She was my best friend Paul’s mom first, but he said that he didn’t mind sharing with me.”
A girl named Stephanie in the second row raised her hand and before Mrs. Wonder could ask her to save her question for the end Bryan pointed to her and asked, “Yes?”
“How many moms do you have?”
Bryan said, “Seven” and smiled a proud smile.
Another hand shot up and just as before Bryan called on them.
“Mrs. Wonder, do you have a mom?”
She froze momentarily, caught off guard by the question being addressed to her.
“Yes dear. But let’s keep the questions…”
“Are you anyone’s mom?”
Mrs. Wonder felt her throat instantly tighten.
“No. But this is about Bryan, not me.”
Another question came from somewhere in the back of the class.
“Are you ever gonna be a mommy?”
It took every ounce of willpower she had to keep her voice calm and hold back the tears that were threatening to pour out.
“No. I can’t… uh. No. I won’t be a mommy.”
This caused a sea of hands to shoot into the air. She took a deep breath and fought the urge to run out of the classroom. For the first time in her life she lied to her students.
“But that’s okay. Not everyone gets to be a mommy.”
She had to fold her hands to quell their shaking. The slight pause was all Bryan needed to take control once again.
“That’s not true!”
This challenge was so far out of character for him that the room went dead silent.
“Bryan. That is not a nice thing to say to adults. Not every woman is able to have a baby!”
The fire in her voice immediately evaporated any confidence Bryan had accumulated during show-and-tell. He began to fidget with his pictures and would only look at Mrs. Wonder with peripheral glances. His voice returned to its barely audible level.
“That’s not what I meant.”
A wave of guilt crashed over her and washed away every other emotion she had been struggling to control.
“I’m sorry Bryan. I didn’t mean… What were you saying?”
Bryan pulled another picture out and held it up for the class to see. Giggles and smiles spread through the students like wildfire as he slowly panned so they could all see.
“This is my newest momma. She is nice to me and helps me whenever I need it. Whenever I feel sad her smile always makes me feel better. She is really good at silly voices and I like the way her hair…”
Tears cut new rivers down her cheeks as Bryan finished panning the picture and she saw for the first time the face of the woman he was talking about.
“…and that’s why I love my momma Wonder.”
Copyright © 2012 Adam Drake
Happy Mother’s Day to ALL the moms out there.