I had a teacher….
The teacher taught me well…
He picked up an apple in each hand and placed them in mine. “Two apples”, he said.
Another day, when I sat kicking at the legs of my little desk, wondering when it would lose this round and give in, he came and put down two apples and two peaches on my desk-top. “Two apples and two peaches make four fruits,” he said.
I stopped kicking and looked up at him in wonder….
Then, there was that fateful day, when I carried into the schoolroom a basketful of fruits…
He picked them out. “Two apples, one peach, one orange… four fruits,” he murmured. I gazed at the bunch on the table, stupefied. Fishing around in the basket, I found what I was looking for… the half-eaten berry. Gingerly, I put it on the table beside the four fruits and slanted him a question.
My teacher smiled. “And a half….” He said.
Magic! It was sheer magic!
“Adding,” said my teacher. “You are adding.”
So we added all day long.
When I grew tired of the fruits and it was cold in the schoolroom, he would open my lunch-box and take the sandwiches out.
“One slice of bread, two slices of bread,” he would drone at my ear… “Three slices of bread, four slices of bread….”
I liked how the innards of those sandwiches came tumbling out… eggs and cheese and tomato.
I sat up in excitement. “Tomato slices, too!” My teacher put down my lunch-box with a little sigh.
“Indeed,” he agreed, turning away.
But we continued to add everyday… things to things.
And everyday to every other day, we got things!
I would plonk down stuff from my satchel on the desk, and my teacher would point at them.
“One pencil, one eraser, two crayons, one jellybean….” he would stare at me. I wait with bated breath for the magic to happen… inevitably, it does.
“Five!” he would exclaim. “Five of them!”
I would still wait for it to fall. “Five… of what?” I ask.
“Of things!” he would say.
Things. I completely wrapped my inside around it. And then, my world outside became made up of things. Everywhere I looked, were things. And we could keep adding…. just adding all things, and never run out of adding to things!
I carried in a snail, a spider, an autumn leaf, a bit of sponge, a dead crab and put them in his lap. “Adding…!” I ordered. But my teacher stood up in a hurry and they slithered and tumbled down. I stared at the neat arc they formed on the floor, the spider trying to sneak away, pulling a nose into the arc….
“You sit down here and add these!” My teacher growled as he led me to my desk. On it were two peaches, a pencil, a paper and two crayons.
This was even more magical….!
I drew the most beautiful frog that would be friends with my peach.
I added sunlight to every day that popped up at my window. When the sun was tardy, I added a laugh. That made four and five sometimes dozens of armfuls of laughs. One cold day, our old neighbor added a daisy, too!
Then the blue-jays flew by, quicker than each could add. But I didn’t have a bother at all! I just added the whole sky to them and added that to my hot chocolate.
Then I found I could add the songs of the birds to the leaves and the breeze and then the flowers would sing!
I could skip the flat pebbles on the water and add the drums to the day! And lying under the heavy tree on a hot summer afternoon, I added all my eye-lashes with the clouds that would come by in a few days….
Back at the desk, my teacher had stopped looking at me. I figured he had forgotten the magic of adding. The day he asked my Mommy to drop by, I stood behind his chair, adding my palm to his warm neck. His fingers were cold and I quickly added the flight of starlings and the end of breeze to them. Still he would not look up, and Mommy made deep pools on the table… I could have told her to add some fish with wings and mermaids and shells right there… but I didn’t want to any more. The room had added the cold from the teacher’s fingers…. Or maybe soaked it up as he let it spill onto the floor and creep around the legs of the desks.
I did not see my teacher any more.
One day, I went to where my desk was but I did not want to add what was there.
So, now I spin the magic he had taught me and pin them to his robe, anyway. He is not looking.
I add the rainbow I found at the end of the brook up in the sky of his forgotten gaze. I listen to the clouds descending, rumbling, and add a breath of the underside of a wren’s wing to it. I have long ago added to my heart the swoop of that eagle when he had birthed himself again after a thousand years…. every year, I add a song to that grace and let the seasons roll over them in their slow dance of breath and life.
I guess I have now understood what my love was trying to teach me when he added being a teacher to my existence. I guess I now can add myself to the rest of being.