The End of Fourth
By: Tanya Ward Goodman
My boy is ending 4th grade tomorrow. He has gone to bed in tears every night for two weeks. He’s been using the word “bittersweet” to describe the end of school. He has made approximately a billion origami lotus flowers. They drift off the dining room table and pile up on the kitchen counters. I found one in the dog’s mouth and another in my shoe.
“The secret to origami,” he tells me, “is a sharp crease.”
He folds and folds and folds.
“I’m doing it for Mrs. M. I’m going to make her thousands of origami.”
My boy is in the throes of his first teacher crush. It’s a no-brainer. She’s a little bit kooky, with swingy bobbed hair and a big smile. She’s a voracious reader and is fond of referring to herself as “Ole Mrs. M,” which is funny and a good reminder that she’s not that old at all. She’s noticed that he likes history and has commended him for bringing in his entire Titantic themed library to share with the class. She makes math fun. She is crush worthy.
“How will I ever find another teacher like Mrs. M?” he wonders.
“You will,” I say. “Not the same. Different, but good in other ways. But, you’ll carry Mrs. M. wherever you go.”
I know this is true because I carry with me all my teachers. I tell him about Mrs. N. who wore wonderful pantsuits and talked to me like an adult though I was only in second grade. Mrs. P let me write and direct a play in third grade and Mr. R. saw me cheerfully through the misery that was eighth grade math. There was Mr. U. who was weird and amazing and gave me shivers when he read the part of the “The Misfit” in the Flannery O’Connor story. Ms. F. and her poem about strawberries and, of course, beloved Joyce with her love of Moby Dick and her determination that we behave like citizens of the world. And that’s only a handful and only through high school.
When I’ve finished with my montage sequence, he looks up at me with his soggy little eyes.
“It just went so fast,” he says.
He sobs in my arms and I look down at his big head with the crazy cowlicked hair. I take in his feet, which are almost the size of my own and I feel the weight of him against my chest. He is so much closer to adult than to baby.
I swallow a sob of my own.
“It did,” I say. “All the best things do.”