Tuesday, June 6, 2017
SLICE OF LIFE
Sweet sweet S.
A sixth grader. Oldest of three girls. Arrived three years ago, when she was in fourth grade.
We were told that her story was sad. It was. Mom had disappeared into Mexico. Grandfather had taken S and her two sisters. They had looked for the girls' mom for several months then returned to Denver without her.
All three girls were quiet beyond belief. Not surprisingly, given their lack of schooling and the family's traumatic history, none of the girls read at grade level. And none spoke more than a few words at a time. Or at least none spoke with words.
But S did speak. She spoke through her art. Her specialty was pencil sketch hands, thumbs and first finger touching in the shape of a heart. Soon those were all over the school. On the fourth grade teacher's bulletin board. In the assistant principal's office. In her friends' plastic slide in notebooks. There were hand hearts everywhere S had been.
Earlier this year, the family had another run of bad luck. The grandfather, the girls' caretaker, was deported. S and her two sisters stayed with the the grandfather's girlfriend. They spent a lot of time at school, participating in almost every after school activity. There was no one to go home to. School was where there was food and kindness,and care.
Last week I saw S and her sisters in the office on the last day of school. They were sitting with the school psychologist, who told me that the girls were going back to Mexico. I asked if they had enough books. They showed me a bag they had collected off the free table.
I asked S if she had enough paper for drawing. She said she didn't. I found some sketchpads over the weekend and met the girls' caretaker at the school today to give them to her. The caretaker explained, in rapid Spanish that I only partly understood, that she had been caring for the girls, feeding them and buying them clothes, since March. She loves them, but they are not her daughters. They are going back to family in Mexico. She dug her phone out of her purse and showed me the two story stucco dwelling where the family will live.
The girls are leaving tomorrow. S was born in the U.S. and can return, if she has someone to take care of her. Her younger sisters, J and K, don't have the right paperwork and can't return unless their family situation changes dramatically.
My heart aches tonight.
The goodbyes do not get any easier.