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There is a little French girl in Zachary’s class. Big brown eyes, soft brown curls, the kind of little girl they write fairy tales about. She is sweet, and she is kind. She is one of those strikingly beautiful little girls whose loveliness you know the other children do not recognize.
Zachary certainly doesn’t. He likes her well enough, but she is definitely not his first choice of a playmate. No, he prefers children like Timmy, who periodically denigrate him and make him feel like a lower-level invertebrate. Julie, who adores him, lights up in a luminous smile every time he enters the room. She giggles with Benjamin, she shares nicely, and she has nothing but love on offer. Zahcary? He’s not buying.
“I don’t want Julie to kiss me at school,” Zach tells me. Apparently, it’s OK for her to kiss him at home, just not at school. I sigh. This girl’s mother and I have started to become friends, ex-patriots clinging together in a sea of hostile, English, new-money mums. We live down the street from one another. We arrange play-dates regularly. Moreover, Julie is the kind of kid I want Zachary playing with.
Guess what? I actually do not get a say in who he decides to be friends with. It is best I learn this early, I suppose.
It is up to him who he wants to befriend, which is kind of a shame, because he is showing rather poor judgment. Of course, choosing vile children to befriend is a rite of passage, and it takes some children years to get wise to the kinds of attributes they should probably be seeking in their playmates. Hell, if choosing rotten friends had been a major offered at my undergraduate institution, I would have graduated summa cum laude. This is one lesson he will have to learn on his own.
While he does not have to be friends with her, he does have to be kind to her. And, he actually is friends with her – out of school. In late October, Julie’s mother gave birth to a baby. So, we invited Julie and her six-year-old sister, Maria, to trick-or-treat with our family. Two more enchanting little witches have never been seen. Zach and Julie skipped and held hands as they went door-to-door.
Ours is the only house Julie has been to. The other mothers have not reached out, and her family is operating in a foreign tongue. In school, the only child she recognizes as a friend, Zachary, never goes out of his way to play with her. If she were to approach him, he would certainly let her play (or feel the wrath of Irate Mommy when he got home). But, she never does. She seems to have accepted herself as an outsider in a cliquey class, and she plays by herself most of the time. Sometimes, the one other French girl in the class plays with her.
There is nothing more I can do. I encourage Zachary to play with her, but I cannot force him. They play nicely at our house, and he is kind to her at school. If any of those boys had even the smallest of inklings how desperate they will be for the attentions of a girl just like her in twenty years…
Two weeks ago, Julie got a bug and missed school play. After she had been out for a few days, we dropped by. Sandra, her mother, answered the door. “Oh, she has been very sick,” she told me. “But now she is better. Except she is getting… bumps from eating. We think it is an allergic.”
“Hives?” I offer the English word.
“Yes. And today she cannot walk.”
“She can’t walk? That doesn’t sound good.”
“We think it is from her medicines. If she cannot walk tomorrow, we will see the doctor.” At this point, the boys had burst in, and Julie was beaming on them from the couch. “Zach. Benjamin,” she cooed. Since there were no classmates around, Zach returned the affection, although I thought it prudent that they not go too close.
I tried to call two days later, but I got no answer. The answer, when I did get it, was the second-worst thing I could imagine hearing. She was still not walking. She was in the hospital; actually, the second hospital, as the first had to transfer her somewhere with a pediatric ICU.
I stopped by with food for the family. Maria, the six-year-old, let me in, excited to see an old friend. Sandra, holding the newborn, ushered me into the kitchen. “They think it is Guillain-Barre Syndrome, but they are trying to rule out other things.”
“What other things?” I demanded.
Sandra shrugged, either unable to say it in English or unwilling to think it in any language. Maria had been crying at school, terrified about her sister. Their father was at the bedside 24/7. Sandra wanted to be there but had two other children to take care of. She spent the time Maria was at school in the hospital, leaving Julie only to breastfeed the baby. All of their support system was in another country. Sandra looked strung out and exhausted, but she was holding it together. That is, until she shared one little detail.
“Yesterday, Julie was singing the songs from the play.” And that made her start sobbing. Dude, it almost made me start sobbing, and I only cry on election day.
Julie does have Guillain-Barre. She will eventually recover, but it could be months or even years. Strange how months in a wheelchair and extensive PT suddenly sounds like good news around here. Sandra’s mother-in-law came into town, and on Thursday she will take Maria back to France for Christmas so that Julie’s parents can focus on the sick child. And Julie? She will be spending Christmas in the hospital, although I am happy to report she ate half a yogurt yesterday.
So, Christmas Day will find Zach and his mother on their way back to the hospital, this time to visit a very sick little girl. We are Jewish; what else do we have to do on the 25th? Maybe, since they are outside of school, he’ll give her a little kiss. I suspect he won’t have to worry about her kissing him in school for quite some time to come.
Oof – That poor sick little girl. I hope she makes a full recovery.
oof. my heart. poor sweet child.
I hope she gets better soon. Thankfully her mother has YOU as a friend. I could think of nothing better.
Thank you for sharing this story – I will keep Julis my thoughts. Certainly reminds me to be extra thankful for the the health of my family – I think we all take that for granted at times.
Oh, the poor little thing, I hope she is well soon.
We will try to do a little something. We will email you.
so many layers to this.
oh man. I had never heard of this until this year and now this is the 2nd child I have heard of that has this. How terrible and hard on her family. I hope her recovery goes quickly.
With a mother like you, I am sure Zachary will learn to pick the right kind of friends and to care for those whom others do not care for. You are setting a great example. My mother was the sort to take meals and to reach out to those whom others ignored. I may have picked the popular kids in preschool and kindergarten, but I quickly learned which people to befriend and even how to love those who were hard to befriend. Your boys will learn a lot from your example.
Oh my that is heartbreaking.
Children learn best by example, and you are setting a wonderful example for your boy. He will learn kindness and compassion because you show it so well.
That darling girl is in my prayers.
You know, we had a lot of friend trouble in preschool. We is accurate, by the way, even when I mean Patience. I’m glad it got worked out in preschool, although I didn’t think I’d ever be glad at the time. She now appears to be choosing sweet children as friends and isn’t too worried about the rest. So far.
Also, he is at the Boys are Boys and Girls are Girls stage.
You are doing everything to lead them in the right direction. They’ll get it. 🙂
And sad, sad news about Julie. I hope her recovery is swift and good. I’m glad her family has you guys at least.
How rough. P&PTs.
Using My Words
Many thoughts headed across the pond from here. I wish I could do more.
Oh, poor little thing!! Here’s wishing her quick recovery!
Oh that poor little girl! I can’t imagine what she and her family are going through right now. That’s just heartbreaking.
Oh, the poor baby – he needs to give her a kiss for me, this just breaks my heart. This was a very good post and made me so thankful that all my children are healthy, especially at this time of year. Take care. Kellan
This post was so very sad and sweet and poignant in one lovely little French package. I’m glad Zach has a Mom who ensures that he practices kindness to the little people who adore him, even when he doesn’t feel like it.
If it helps at all, my hub had Guillain-Barre Syndrome as a child, and it is frightening, but he recovered fully, though he spent several months in a hospital. That was about 35 years ago, too, so with modern therapy and care, Julie should (hopefully) come around much more quickly.
She is in our prayers, as is her family.
Poor baby girl. It must be so hard for her parents to deal with her illness while away from any support. You’re being a good friend, here, to both Julie and her mom. What a great model for Zach, even though he probably doesn’t realize it…yet.
i have an adult friend who is struggling with this very thing right now. I have been helping her with meals and childcare.
prayers for julie and her family…
what a terrifying thing for Julie and her family. And what a bizarre senseless disease — I suppose they all are, but, for whatever reason, this seems even more so than usual.
I will be thinking of her and wishing her a speedy recovery. I’m glad that you are being friends to her and her family. What a terrible thing for them to go through.
many layers to this indeed…but thank you for letting us see some of the story, and i wish a full recovery to wee Julie and some peace of mind to her poor parents. they will, i think, be very grateful for you coming over this Christmas.
funny how the real Christmas gifts seldom seem to come from expected quarters…
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No matter what your religion, that sounds like a great way to spend Dec 25th. Good on you.
I’m so sorry about the girl. When I was young, I always thought – why does it have to hit the nice ones? Why did my favorite grandmother have to die early and not the other one? …
That is so heartbreaking. She’s lucky to have you as a friend.
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Hello – I got here after searching for school resources on ‘light’ for my class! But it happens that my mother had Guillain-Barre when she was about 37. It was a scary time and it took time for her to recover, but she certainly did recover. A bit of stiffness in her leg occasionally, and that’s really it – she then continued to be a glider pilot as before! The best of luck to Julie and her family, and hoping the recovery goes well.