Teacher Appreciation Week was last week, and Sophie's preschool went into full-tilt celebration mode, with all kinds of special treats for teachers, including two days in which one teacher from each classroom got to take off for two hours in the afternoon while a parent helped out the remaining teacher in charge. When I got there for my volunteer shift, I was assigned the toddler classroom, a gaggle of about ten two-year-olds.
It was about 1:00 in the afternoon, nap time, and everyone had taken to their mats and blankets all about the floor. The lights were out and the curtains drawn, and the New Age-y instrumental music was doing its Pavlovian work, lulling everyone to sleep. I was charged with rubbing little Claudia's back while she worked her pacifier and let her eyes droop. She blinked and blinked, one longer than the next until her eyes closed for the duration. Thandi was laying face up, staring peacefully at the ceiling, and told her teacher she didn't need any back-rubbing to get to sleep, she was just fine the way she was. Everyone else was already out cold.
"Holy cow," I whispered to Jenna, the teacher, "this is cute."
"I know," she said.
I took another look. "I mean really, really cute," I pressed.
My shift consisted of taking in all the tiny, wide feet sticking out of the bottoms of blankets, as if I were tending a colony of Fred Flintstone's relatives. I forgot how sweet it is to see wisps of diaper sticking out of the waistband of a tiny pair of khakis. They tossed, turned, smiled in their sleep, wrestled with their blankets. One little girl slept with her legs tucked under her chest, her mouth wide open so that her blankets were soaked by the time she woke up. The music, the darkened room, and the teacher working quietly on Mother's Day tokens in a tiny chair in the corner was almost too much. I sat by the light of the window for the next two hours, reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and wondered what I had done to deserve all this.