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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 7, Number 4, December 2013

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Donna Buck
Beaumont, California, USA


Ribbons

I miss them, my families. Their celebrations. Their tender gifts of homemade tortillas and sweet coffee before class. Roses and geraniums from their gardens.

Today is release day for parent conferences at my new school. At first the schedule slips are not returned. “They don’t have transportation,” notes a veteran colleague. So I send the slips again asking if I can meet them at home. Almost all say yes, so eagerly I set up my appointments half an hour apart, allowing for transit time between their houses.

At my first appointment, parents, cousins, aunties are waiting. Bountifully arranged on the kitchen table: buñuelos, tortillas, pan dulces, fruit. Huevos rancheros. Homemade salsa. Before we talk, we eat. I have already had breakfast so do my best. After over half an hour, the family is ready and everyone joins in as the oldest son presents his portfolio.

This hospitality is repeated variously at every home. By the third conference I’m already two hours behind. Here, we meet on oilcloth padded chairs on a small concrete slab outside the tiny house. The yard has orange and fig trees. Dad brings me ice water in a green plastic glass, an orange. My hands are sticky from the sweet juice, and the daughter takes the rind from me and pours more cold water on my hands, hands me a napkin. This father’s eyes light up as I tell him how eager his daughter is to learn, how talented she is, how gifted her writing. “I only went to fourth grade,” he says in Spanish. “How proud you must be,” I answer. I tell him that my siblings and I were the first in our family to finish school too. “That’s why I came here,” he says. “For my kids,” he says.

autumn raindrops
on the wings
of an origami swan

Because the conferences take so much longer than I expected, I worry that the families I missed today will think I stood them up. I send home a letter explaining and rescheduling. For the next months I meet them breakfast before school, or dinner. Then the extended family events. When I ask for help with my dance group’s costumes, my parents arrive after school with sewing machines, and set up an assembly line workshop in my classroom. We laugh and eat while we sew, making the ruffled skirts with row upon row of colorful ribbons.

They are so beautiful, the swirling colors of my families.

last Elgar march
echo of their voices . . .
retirement

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