Today had a brightness, colors leapt and peeked out from the usual dreary, clouded, dull grays. This brightness was something Jasmine sensed, she was feeling something good, it was coursing through her as she woke to the morning light.
This day started well for young Jasmine. To begin with, she could already appreciate that it was Friday, “…at last,” Jasmine concluded with an exhale that was released in an attention grabbing audible just as her bunk mate began to sit up at the sound of it. Finally, the week of school work, sitting in that hard plastic chair and following loads of rules had all concluded. She had completely finished another week of schooling. On this week, Jasmine could hold her head high as she successfully finished each of her homework assignments, logging sincere efforts before she laid her head down each night of the week. She worked diligently, even on those assignments that Mrs. Parker had given out on Saturday. It was unusual for Jasmine to focus on school work over the weekend but she made the decision to do just that and she followed through.
This gave her a sense of accomplishment, a good feeling of perfect contentment that she wanted to feel more of. This feeling was alive in her for a number of reasons. The greatest reason, what really lit her up on this day of days was the knowledge that her favorite teacher, Mr. Paulsen was coming in to join her class this morning. This made her happy. Mr. Paulsen knew so much about the world, he understood things that other adults couldn’t understand. Then when she asked questions he listened with eagerness.
Mr. Paulsen was unique, he was quiet and the students appreciated how well he listened when they spoke with him. It was as though everything they shared was something meaningful. The student who most deeply appreciated Mr. Paulsen was Jasmine. He often called her ‘Jazz’, this among other things that he did gave her a feeling of being seen, appreciated and in those moments when he spoke the word jazz in her direction, she loved her name more than he loved his jazz music. He referenced his favorite jazz musicians and educated her on the great Jazz artists who had played their instruments to create the unique style that became known as the American created; jazz music. Mr. Paulsen reminded her that these musicians played their instruments masterfully. He spoke so gracefully of the ways jazz evolved over the years, it was with acceptance and appreciation that he spoke about this development. She liked Mr. Paulsen, he was different from the other teachers, exceptionally different. He was a person who inspired her to consider the term: love. She wondered about love and Mr. Paulsen brought about much of this curious reflection that floated about in her thought stream.
Mr. Paulsen walked, spoke, dressed and even stood in a different way than other authority figures who visited her school. When he came to visit Jasmine became keen to question many of her presupposed conclusions about adults.
Some of these authorities came in to the facility she called home just to look around with concerned expressions, then they easily departed. Relief appeared as they left. It was as though they placed a weight on the shoulders of the staff members around the building. Tensions arose with these suited figures entered the buildings and very few pains assuaged because of these so called professionals. Some of these figures just took notes, barely looking up from their clipboards.
Mr. Paulsen though, he was different.
He was funny, . He wore red rimmed glasses that had been decorated with sunflower stickers, one on each side. He smiled wide, brightened up her morning and gave her the best complements when she participated in his creative writing exercises. There were only two times she couldn’t participate, those were tough days for Jazz. On those especially emotional days she stayed in bed, held on to the covers and held on to her ‘self’. It was on those days that she realized that she was looking out for Jasmine( Young Jazz), holding on to her sanity the best way she could. Even on those days Mr. Paulsen would keep dropping by her desk as he imagined that she would be sitting there.
Even if she didn’t want to write he would encourage her, unendingly. He was praise her efforts tenaciously. He’d ask if she’d like to draw a picture, talk or write a song together. He would keep trying and show his soul-felt approval for anything she produced.
She appreciated Mr. Paulsen dearly, often wondered what life was like for him outside of the ‘facility’ where fate insisted that she maintain residence. Imagination was her best tool, imagination was an absolute necessity in her eyes, she needed a healthy imagination to survive. This ability she had to drift away into other places offered her a chance to envision him taking nice, long, meandering strolls through the forest that was alive just outside. On these slow journeys Mr. Paulsen would reflect on something that happened during the week. Or … maybe he would consider one of the novels he was reading. What else would he think about?
She wondered as this daydream would come to an abrupt halt when he’d announce that it was time for his departure. It was his time to disrupt her daydreams with an open armed, kind but firm; ..”farewell my good students..”. Then, as he finished his salute he would raise both arms and glide out of the room, lithely moving past the entrance until he was no longer visible.
…….”aaahhhhh”, she’d sigh.. exhaling in a long, audible tone as she felt the pressure of her reality begin to weigh heavily on her chest once more.
In these late hours she continued to hope and yearn.
She yearned for quiet, a home with two loving, caring, adoring parents. She knew this was unlikely but she hoped, prayed and imagined that it was possible.