By Colleen Lowe Smith
My daughter has exceptional communication skills. When she was younger, we would make faces: “make a happy face!” “make a sad face!” “make a mad face!” Now she can make faces that express things like “Why are you putting away my plate of food that’s been sitting out for two hours?” or “I didn’t mean to squeeze the cat that hard” or “I have to pee! I have to pee!” And verbally? Forget about it. She’s been speaking since before two, and now, before three, she will tell epic tales and recall everything that happened “yesterday” (which is everything and anything that has happened before this moment, including yesterday, when she was a baby). Her late grandfather was a writer and a storyteller. Her great grandmother had “the gift of gab” and even as she was dying, when I was afraid to give her morphine for fear she I would lose her to delirium, she said “Oh, Colleen. I’ll never stop talking.” And she didn’t, to her last breath. So I suppose it is her legacy, to carry this incessant delightful blabber.
I taught six weeks of a Montessori pre-school summer camp recently. Cassidy was in class with me, and it is awesome to witness her giggle with her buddies while making burrito pies with play dough, or digging tunnels in the sandbox with the boys. She easily overcame what I thought would be too - long days (8 - 3), and liked to tell me what she wanted me to pack in her lunches the night before (pickles, blueberries, applesauce, cheese). She did an amazing job toilet training at school (those little toilets are so appealing to little bottoms). Every two weeks was a new session. The last session we had three new children arrive, all three years old, all who had never been to our school before. Two out of three were supremely needy, murmuring that familiar refrain, “I want my mommy!” For the first few days that week, I had needy children in my arms, on my lap, comforting, consoling. I was surprised and amazed that Cassidy could hang so well with it all. Until Wednesday morning, at least.
Said children were arriving. We went straight to the playground every morning to begin the day. Cassidy hung back inside with me. “Cassidy, I need you to go outside, it’s time to play!” She held my gaze and walked over to a shelf. “Cassidy don’t you want to go play for a little while?” Without even glancing away, she picked up a basket full of little blue pegs that went with a peg board activity. She held her arm out, and without flinching or retreating eye contact, she turned the basket upside down and pegs scattered everywhere. “Cassidy,” I said. “Now you have to pick those up.” She looked at me still. Hard. She picked up another basket and dumped it, too, on the floor.
I got it. She wasn’t all that okay with sharing me. I felt horrible. I went into the office and got the list of substitutes and called each one on the list until I found one that would cover for me the next day. Cassidy and I went out to breakfast, blueberry picking, and to the library. Friday she stayed home again with her grandma. For a girl of so many words, even when there were none, I heard her loud and clear.
Colleen Lowe Smith lived as a wanderer and Montessori pre-school teacher in ten different states and New Zealand before meeting her husband and landing in rural Massachusetts. Together, they raise their two year old daughter, and pigs. She also has a 14 year old stepdaughter and 24 year old stepson. Obsessed with higher education, Colleen has an BA in Studio Art, a MA in Interdisciplinary Studies (Human Studies), a MFA in Writing, as well as AMI certifications in Montessori education, and Psychosynthesis, a holistic form of psychotherapy. She currently teaches at an awesome Montessori school where her daughter also attends.