Little Blessings Excerpts

SHEEP-LESSNESS
By Cona F. Gregory-Adams

Never a dull moment, with small fry in tow,
expressing opinions as they learn and grow.

Imaginations always working overtime,
throwing out questions that boggle the mind.

"Mom, I can't sleep," the little girl announces.
Mother advised counting sheep, jumping fences.

Soon, a small excited voice cries out in wonder,
"Mom, it's not working, they're squeezing under!"

 

THE GLORIOUS MORNING OF THE DANCING PONYTAIL
By Scott Peterson

My daughter is on her way to kindergarten early enough in the fall that her hair is still streaked blond by the summer sun and a parade of freckles marches across her nose and splashes over her rosy cheeks. Her hair is pulled back in a high, tight ponytail that dances and wiggles every time she moves, as if wired directly to her brain and every emotion, every quiver of excitement is broadcasted straight through her ponytail out to the rest of the world. She carries a backpack that gives her the humped look of a turtle, and inside are all the earthly possessions she needs to get through the school day; the new set of markers still bright and sharp and not mushed into nothingness by over-eager hands; the almost new notebook I brought back for her from a conference at Michigan State University; a favorite book she just has to share with her teacher; and the chubby little bear that gets her through the long, lonely bus journey when she can’t sit next to her best friend.
She walks down the driveway and joins the gaggle of neighborhood kids on their way to the bus stop. At first she mingles with the group as they amble up the road, but then, no longer able to contain her kindergarten excitement, her feet shift into a trot. Just as she breaks free from the crowd, a ray of early morning sun slants over the embankment across the street and hits her ponytail, transforming it into a beacon of dancing yellow light. The scene takes my breath away, and I stand and watch until the dancing ponytail disappears inside the bus and roars off to school, even though I have pressing business at work and will now have to fight the rush hour traffic. This moment is a rare and precious gift, a privileged glimpse into a world all most too good to be true.
And maybe it is. This perfect hasp of light and air and innocence is indeed a powerful mix, but a fragile one as well. The unchallenged belief that each and every morning will be as bright and shiny as this one is an impossible standard to maintain, beyond even the best of educational institutions to meet. The daily grind of homework and endless high stakes testing, the intense and often brutal buffeting from peers, the gritty reality of everyday life will soon enough begin to rub the glow off my daughter’s light and tarnish her youthful optimism.
As the bus chugs away, I realize that I have learned something about my role as a father. My biggest tasks aren’t going to be teaching my daughter how to read or ride a bike or pitch a decent fastball. My real job is to keep that light glowing when everybody and everything seems hell bent on putting it out. Today, on this glorious morning of the dancing ponytail, her vision is so lofty as to be beyond reach. To carry around such expectations is an almost unbearable burden, a prescription for disappointment. My job will be to help her learn to deal with life as it comes, not as it should be. I will have to learn how to sift through all that is tossed her way and to pick the important things. As Martin Barrett writes in his fine essay, Climbing Toward Christmas, “The miracle is not something that happens to you - it is all around you, you are embedded in it, moving through it, part of it.” My task is to help her realize that life is rich and deep and full of joy, and our job is to identify those miracles no matter how they come wrapped.
I learned one other important thing on this glorious morning of the dancing ponytail, something about the love between a parent and child. Before today, I thought it was a warm and cuddly thing, like the smell of baby powder and shampoo after an evening bath, or brushing the hair out of my daughter’s eyes as I read her a bedtime story or rocking a spooked child back to sleep after a bad dream. It is all these things, of course, but also something much deeper and more complicated. What is unleashed in the soul between a parent and a child is a wild thing, sharp and edgy as well as soft and warm. Love is a multi-faceted emotion, with pain and tears, endless worry and sleepless nights as much a part of the mix as light and glory. I will have to pick my way carefully through this complicated maze of emotions, but if I watch my step, listen and learn as I go along, and do my job well, then maybe I can help to keep the glorious light of the dancing ponytail glowing.

SLEEP TIGHT, MY LITTLE DARLING
By Lynn C. Johnston

Sleep tight, my little darling
May your dreams take off in flight
As you cuddle to your pillow
Your face glows softly by night-light

I kiss your forehead gently
As to not disturb your dreams
Maybe you could bring me back
A rainbow or some moonbeams

Sleep tight, my little darling
May your dreams be just as sweet
As the child here before me
Nestled gently in the sheets

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