“This is where Tania slipped in,” I always remember here.
I am visiting one of my favorite places in the city- the Aquatic Gardens. It is one of those wonderful parks tucked away so that it remains undiscovered by most. It is quiet and beautiful, with creamy, other-worldly lotuses reaching above the mucky water, the last of the waterlilies blooming, and iridescent dragonflies humming. I travel the path from the parking lot to emerge from shade to a sunny, grassy area with the first pond. It is a small, rectangular, man-dug pond with spiky water lily blooms and their flat round leaves floating. It is 18 years later, and I remember Tania once again.
In my years of bringing my young students on field trips I have only had two children fall in water. Both were more comical than serious. But I remember them with discomfort- to the teacher in charge, such things are not funny. Not funny to Tania, either, after she turned to her belly and quickly scrambled back up the bank. I did not scold and after her first look of shock and bewilderment she put on a “no big deal” tough girl face. Yet whenever I pass this pond and remember Tania slipping off the edge and getting one foot and leg wet and muddy, I return to the question, how did it happen? Could I have prevented it? Today, I am struck with an answer.
Tania didn’t have experience with dirt. She was a city girl, an apartment child, with a concrete playground at her school. Soil was something packed hard between sidewalk and gutter, with skinny trees and cigarette butts. Drawn to the fuchsia flowers in the first pond, what did Tania know, of a curved berm, of grass slippery with dew, of soil moist with recent rain? She didn’t know to watch her footing, more carefully the closer to the water she got.
Teachers are always realizing something they need to teach that they assumed was already there. Sometimes we realize it in advance and sometimes late. And so we are also always making silent entreaties for forgiveness.