the toughest questions

Recently, I have transitioned from having to answer and elaborate on my answer to the standard at-home-for-Christmas-party question, “(So) what is your major?” to having to quickly calculate Context times Questioner divided by Questioner’s Politics to determine the best answer to the question, “What are you doing (now)?”

It is not always easy to clearly explain the many components of my position as an AmeriCorps member serving part time in a settlement house and part time in the Drama classroom of an elementary school to the casual family friend or childhood acquaintance. Though a large part of the reason I have difficulty answering this question is admittedly because I dread the inevitable follow-up; “What will you do afterwards?”

The easiest answer is that I spend most days guiding giddy and grumpy five-year-olds through the process of mask and puppet-making, redirecting distracted six and seven-year-olds, and attempting to get angsty eight-year-olds to think that I’m cool. The skill set includes a good combination of patience and resilience.

At the end of one particular kindergarten class, I found myself darting back and forth from the craft table to the bathroom, between which students had scattered themselves, trying either to squeeze one last bit of glitter glue onto their construction-paper crown or to wash the glitter glue off their hands. I rushed into the bathroom, which houses one small sink that was, at the moment, enveloped in a frenzy of foam soap bubbles and tiny flailing limbs.

“Wait!” my teacher voice cut through the resounding giggles. “Lisa, that is too much soap. You only need one pump of soap.” The giggles abruptly ceased. “Just…rinse off your hands for now. But now you know…for the future…you only need one pump of soap.” Now the sound of running water was solely audible.

“Ms. Cannon,” a sweet voice called through the floating bubbles and the silence, “What is the future?”

I stumbled, of course, over my answer to yet another dirty four-worded query while I thought to myself, “Touché, Lisa.”

More recently, I reached for my cell phone to write a text message to a friend that included the word “hypothetical.” Stopping to think, I could not seem to get past the initial “H.” I am usually a good speller, but I could not remember and I smirked unsurely, was that with an “I?”

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