Today is Monday, August 12th, 2013; Karen's Korner #2631
Second, and last, entry from "Keepsakes for the Heart". It is a little bit longer than most 'korners', so 'save and read later' if your schedule doesn't permit right now:
Teardrops of Hope
My friend Lauri and I had brought out our kids to the park that day to celebrate my 35th birthday. From a picnic table, we watched them laugh and leap through the playground while we unpacked a basket bulging with sandwiches and cookies.
We toasted our friendship with bottles of mineral water. It was then that I noted Lauri's new drop earrings. In the 13 years I'd known Lauri, she'd always loved drop earrings. I'd seen her wear pair after pair: threaded crystals cast in blue, strands of colored gemstones, beaded pearls in pastel pink.
"There's a reason why I like drop earring," Lauri told me . She began revealing images of a childhood that changed her forever, a tale of truth and its power to transform.
It was a spring day. Lauri was in sixth grade, and her classroom was cheerfully decorated. Yellow May Day baskets hung suspended on clotheslines above desks, caged hamsters rustled in shredded newspaper and orange marigolds curled over cutoff milk cartons on window shelves.
The teacher, Mrs. Lake, stood in front of the class, her auburn hair flipping onto her shoulders like Jackie Kennedy's, her kind blue eyes sparkling. But it was her drop earrings that Lauri noticed most----golden teardrop strands laced with ivory pearls. "Even from my back-row seat," Lauri recalled, "I could see those earrings gleaming in the sunlight from the windows."
Mrs. Lake reminded the class it was the day set aside for end-of-the-year conferences. Both parents and students would participate in these important progress reports. On the blackboard, an alphabetical schedule assigned 20 minutes for each family.
Lauri's name was at the end of the list. But it didn't matter much. Despite at least one reminder letter mailed home and the phone calls her teacher had made, Lauri knew her parents would not be coming.
Lauri's father was an alcoholic, and that year his drinking had escalated. Many nights Lauri would fall asleep hearing the loud, slurred voice of her father, her mother's sobs, slamming doors, pictures rattling on the wall.
The previous Christmas Lauri and her sister had saved baby-sitting money to buy their dad a shoeshine kit. They had wrapped the gift with red-and-green paper and trimmed it with a gold ribbon curled into a bow. When they gave it to him on Christmas Eve, Lauri watched in stunned silence as he threw it across the living room, breaking it into three pieces. Now Lauri watched all day long as each child was escorted to the door leading into the hallway, where parents would greet their sons and daughters with proud smiles, pats on the back and sometimes even hugs. The door would close and Lauri would try to distract herself with her assignments. But she couldn't help hearing the muffled voices as parents asked questions, children giggled nervously and Mrs. Lake spoke. Lauri imagined how it might feel to have her parents greet her at the door.
When at last everyone else's name had been called, Mrs. Lake opened the door and motioned for Lauri. Silently Lauri slipped out into the hallway and sat down on a folding chair. Across from the chair was a desk covered with student files and projects. Curiously she watched as Mrs. Lake looked through the files and smiled.
Embarrassed that her parents had not come, Lauri folded her hand and looked down at the linoleum. Moving her desk chair next to the downcast little girl, Mrs. Lake lifted Lauri's chin so she could make eye contact. "First of all," the teacher said, "I want you to know how much I love you."
Lauri lifted her eyes. In Mrs. Lake's face she saw things she'd rarely seen: compassion, empathy, tenderness.
"Second," the teacher said, "you need to know it is not your fault that your parents are not here today."
Again Lauri look into Mrs. Lake's face. No one had ever talked to her like this. No one.
"Third," she went on, "you deserve a conference whether your parents are here or not. You deserve to hear how well you are doing and wonderful I think you are."
In the following minutes, Mrs. Lake held a conference just for Lauri. She showed Lauri her grades. She scanned Lauri's papers and projects, praising her efforts and affirming her strengths. She had even saved a stack of watercolors Lauri had painted.
Lauri didn't know exactly when, but at some point in that conference she heard the voice of hope in her heart. And somewhere a transformation started.
As tears welled in Lauri's eyes, Mrs. Lake's face became misty and hazy-----except for her drop earrings of golden curls and ivory pearls. What were once irritating intruders in oyster shells had been transformed into things of beauty.
It was then that Lauri realized, for the first time in her life, that she was lovable.
As we sat together in a comfortable silence, I thought of all the times Lauri had worn the drop earnings of truth for me.
I, too, had grown up with an alcoholic father, and for years I had buried my childhood stories. But Lauri had met me in a symbolic hallway of empathy. There she helped me see that the shimmering jewel of self-worth is a gift from God that everyone deserves. She showed me that even adulthood is not too late to don the dazzling diamonds of new-found self-esteem.
Jus then the kids ran up and flopped onto the grass to dramatize their hunger. For the rest of the afternoon we wiped spilled milk, praised off-balance somersaults and glided down slides which were much too small for us.
But in the midst of it all, Lauri handed me a small box, a birthday gift wrapped in a red floral paper trimmed with a gold bow.
I opened it. Inside was a pair of drop earnings.
~ Nancy Sulilivan-Geng