When Mrs. Strand abandoned us to take care of other children, horrible other children (I thought), that she liked better, I was just so angry, and mostly hurt. To be fair, they were her children, and yes, she was pregnant with twins, but still.
When the substitute kindergarten teacher walked in — with all her opposites — dark hair, short, nyloned, I was furious. I just wanted to bite her. So I did. I don’t know if she knew it, but I did. When she walked around the classroom halfway through her first day and pushed (quite possibly gently) our heads down to our mats for our morning nap, I was so close to her leg. So close I reached out my mouth. Opened it. I know a loose baby tooth rubbed against her nylon. Maybe she didn’t notice. Maybe it was subtle. But in my five year old brain, the point had been made. I loved Mrs. Strand.
It didn’t take long for me to let it all go, the loose baby teeth, and my hatred for Mrs. Podolski. Maybe it was because she didn’t force me to drink the glass bottled milk before nap time. Or maybe it was because she hung our indescribables (just a longer word for scribbles) all around the classroom. Or maybe she did just pillow our heads to the mats each day. In any case, she was nice. And I loved her too. “There’s so much room in my heart,” I thought, as I fell to sleep on the floor of Washington Elementary.
It was my first lesson in the letting in and the letting go. It wouldn’t be my last. I stopped biting, but my five year old heart didn’t ever really change. It has been pushed and coddled gently. It has been bruised and stretched and filled and filled and filled with the tenderness that only love can bring. It still amazes me. Each morning. I lift my head and think, and hope, and pray, “Let there be room in my heart!”