My Mama’s in Heaven


    Ra’Vae carries an aura about her. She walks into school every morning with a set of braided pig-tails, a Hannah Montana backpack, and a look of fierce intensity. She is the first to help out around the classroom, quick to comfort a hurting child, and the only student who simply tells a rule-breaker “stop being bad” instead of tattling. Ra’Vae is a ring-leader — but in a good way — and her current job is to tie shoes (since almost nobody can).
    On Wednesday Ra’Vae lost it. It was like something snapped. Kicking, screaming, shouting — at me, the kids, anyone and everyone. Talika, her closest friend at school, approached her with a look of concern. “Ra’Vae, why are you crying?”
    Ra’Vae kicked out a chair and howled at the top of her lungs, “GAH!!! STOP LOOKING AT ME!!!”
    I was shocked. Nothing I did would calm her down. I finally sent Ra’Vae out with a pre-k assistant, who hauled Ra’Vae down to another room as Ra’Vae screamed, “I WANT MY MAMA! I WANT MY MAMA!!!!!” the whole way down.
    Ra’Vae didn’t join our class again until lunchtime. She greeted me with a smile and a “Hi teacher!” and entered the cafeteria as if nothing had happened. I marveled. How easily children could forget.
    Later that week I gave the kids their homework folders. “Mom and dad will need to help with the assignment,” I said, “So make sure you show them your folder.”
    Ra’Vae scrunched up her brow and murmured quietly, “My mama’s in heaven.”
   I stopped short mid-sentence and felt my throat begin to tighten. Ra’Vae didn’t have a mama. She was killed only months ago. And daddy was in jail. Her grandma told me so, and I’d forgotten. How could I forget?
    I looked at Ra’Vae and choked out my next words, “I’m sure your grandma can help you out just fine.” Ra’Vae nodded.
from September 30, 2012

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