Today I did little more than help Alex and Rae with their algebra work. Alex rants, “Do you use this stuff? What’s the point?” She’s frustrated and it comes out as anger. But we’re only a few more problems into it when I realize that her problem with algebra is staying with the detail of it. You have to pay attention to every little step, every rule, every little number, every variable’s variations. It’s maddening for her, but maybe later when she’s not so angry she’ll see my point, and give it her attention instead of her frustration. Then again, maybe not.
Rae is so different, so peaceable. She, too, gets frustrated, but I think it’s my presence right by her side that makes her nervous. So I get up and fold some laundry. She finishes her work quickly and returns to smiling.
Later I stop by Alex’s room. She’s sitting calmly in front of her computer. When I approach her I see that she’s drawing the figure that’s on her computer screen. And she’s doing a great job. This is a little miracle, really, because Alex had determined some time ago that she could not draw. I went about to prove her wrong—I had books and illustrations to prove that anyone can draw—but still she insisted she couldn’t. We butted heads terribly over that, and it was I who got angry then, when I shouldn’t have. But now, before me is an exquisitely drawn figure, crafted by her own hands.
“What’s this?” I ask brightly.
She smiles a broad and eager smile. “A friend of mine said that if I was a poet, I should be able to draw. I just figured out that it’s all just lines,” she laughed, “and then it was easy!”
After issuing praises I walk out of her room, outside and under the honey warm Sun. I am astounded by her accomplishment. And it’s hers. No one can say, “I taught you that.” She gave that gift to herself. Aren’t these some of the finest gifts? The ones we finally claim as ours. The ones that were in us all along, waiting to be opened.
By the way, Alex departs for Wupertal Germany, next year, as an exchange student. I’m confident she will have an extraordinary adventure.