dreaming about brown girl dreaming

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Waiting for snow. Missing my kids. Hoping my son will be ok through this first “on his own” Nor’easter. Missing my hens as they’ve gone to live elsewhere. Life is full of “missings“.

I’ve been reading reviews of Jacqueline Woodson’s brown girl dreaming for a while now and waiting patiently to get my hands on it. So when I walked into our after school literacy workshop and saw it on top of our pile of goodies, I was ecstatic. First I smelled it. It smelled wonderful. Then I savored that first time cracking sound an unopened book makes when it’s opened for the first time. Then I read it. The passage that resonated with me immediately; a naming:

that would change her forever.

Your brother

my mother heard her own mother say

and then there was only a roaring in the air around her

a new pain where once there wasn’t pain

a hollowness where only minutes before

she had been whole.

Yet, that wasn’t the part of the book we were to focus on. How often, I wondered, do our kids tuck away the passage that resonated with them so they can move on to the topic I want them to explore?

We opened the book to, and focused on, the first two pages. A little brown girl born during the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s in the Buckeye state of Ohio. Our entire, hour long conversation, was charismatic, electric even; energized by the retellings of that tumultuous time by the older teachers of the group as the younger teachers savored every word which recounted those memories. “I Have a Dream.”  We kept coming back to those simple words. Yet as we discussed them and the magnificence they held we all knew the truth, they were not simple words at all. They were missing words. Just as the words below describe the author’s missings:

so that today-

February 12, 1063

and every day from this moment on,

brown children like me can grow up

free. Can grow up

learning and voting and walking and riding

wherever we want.

Will our kids understand those missing words?  The missing that so many children back then (and still today) experience. Missing things they never even experienced.  I found myself drifting, thinking, about those beautifully positioned words and the power they held on me as I read them. The power to heal. Just writing them must have been healing. And then reading them, again and again; healing.  Most children also know that words have the power to hurt, the power to share, and connect, and guide, and shine, and dim, and color. But do they understand their power to heal?

As our kids explore words and the power and mysteries they hold, I hope I can guide them so see how wonderful and fortunate it is that words do have the power to heal. Many of our kids come to school hurt; their life is hard sometimes. Life IS hard sometimes. We all know that. You can’t make it through life without experiencing the hurts and the heals. Nor would we want to. Those experiences and what we do with them make us whole, make us human; hopefully make us empathetic and caring. Thankfully, words have the power to heal. And we share that power as we read and reflect by talking aloud our thoughts and feelings as we read such powerful writings. We also write.

Reading the passages above gave me such a strong sense of naming. Naming the missing I was feeling. Naming exactly the feelings I felt, the thoughts I had, the experiences I shared. And with that naming can come healing. For everyone. It was in those poetic words about her mother’s brother, that I thought about how freeing naming the missing felt.That someone could capture my feelings, my memories, so perfectly was surprising. Yet it shouldn’t have been. We all have the power to do that, to put our missings into words and let those words take those feelings away, to a place of healing. That’s one of the reasons we want our kids to unlock the joys and powers of reading and writing. Isn’t it?

Mary

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