To My Fourth Grader

In the last days of fourth grade, I wonder what you will remember from this year. I still have memories of being ten and Mrs. Parker’s class in the new building. But I feel like we had more time to play and were under much less pressure to excel at everything than you and your classmates are. So I hope that when you look back, you realize how much you grew, how much joy you gave those around you, how proud we were of you. And that it was fun.

I remember studying Egypt and wanting to be an archeologist like the Leakeys. Will you remember that you had plans to study physics and chemistry so you could build the first time machine?

I remember sitting at the round table near the sink with Mary, Sarah and Amy. They would all get sent out in the hall for talking, but I was too quiet for Mrs. Parker to hear. So I was left alone in class – the first injustice I remember suffering. Will you still be friends with the kids at your table?

I remember that Mrs. Parker was too old to manage a camping trip, an annual tradition that started in third grade at my school. So the whole class went to Brian’s house in Annapolis. I think that was the year someone dumped cool-aid in the water, and I got stung by jellyfish up and down my legs. Will you remember chasing the Sting Ray while snorkeling for the first time?

That was the year I read Little Women and got stuck for two months on the chapter about Meg. And the Christmas when Mrs. Parker told me I had to stop reading biographies until Spring Break, because I had read Florence Nightingale and Helen Keller 14 times each. Will you remember reading the Percy Jackson books one right after the other?

I took piano lessons in a red brick house across from school. My piano teacher had beautiful white hair and multiple organs, pianos, and even a harp in the room where she taught. Each week, I arrived wishing I had practiced more. Every once in a while that room appears out of nowhere in my thoughts. Will you look back on playing “Square Dance” at your spring recital? Or Mrs. Valet letting you play the xylophone at the end of each lesson, because that’s what you really want to play?

I remember that the house we moved into the summer before had a dogwood tree out front with pink flowers on one side and white on the other. I still believe it was the only one in the world. Will you remember telling me that we should never sell our house because you want to live in it when you have kids?

I loved homework, although you have much, much more than we did. I remember writing a ten-page book report that included colorful illustrations just because I was so excited to bring an assignment home. It made me feel important and wise. Will you remember working on your South Dakota report? Or rehearsing your Wright Brothers speech? Or making that crazy relief map of the U.S.? Or proudly instructing your brothers that they’d better shape up for Mrs. Grant, as if you have earned a badge of honor for surviving the toughest teacher in Lower School – and you need to protect her from your errant siblings.

I remember a skeleton named Charlie in a white wooden closet in Mrs. Bishop’s Science Room. Will you remember how obsessed you were with the digestive system? That when you finally believed you could not get polio, you started worrying about the dog catching it. Or how much fun you are having building your rocket with Mr. Gifford, who always keeps you laughing?

I believed, and still believe, I have the best parents, sisters and best friend in the world. Will you remember what it feels like to snuggle with your mom? How excited you are each night when Dad walks in the door? How amazing your brothers are?

To my fourth grader, when you are all grown up, my hope is that you look back on fourth grade – even though you had to work hard, be more independent, run a timed mile, join the swim team – and remember it as fondly as I do.

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