The twins often play witches, which means running around with a broom or a mop or a croquet mallet between their legs yelling “Lucky pones uh-chris crumpet leech!” Their chatter reveals in a strong belief that if they just get the intonation right, one of these days, they’ll take off. Occasionally, Fisher will ask whether Daddy knows another spell to make them fly. “I’d have to research that one.” Mid-witch play…
F: Did you get to sit down on the train today?
D: Yes, Fisher, I did.
F: Because you were not er, eh, uh polite?
D: A little bit. Once I got a seat, I didn’t get up for other passengers. I didn’t want to stand again. That makes you so tired.
F: That’s good, Daddy. (Pause.) Did your train have a er, eh, uh double decker?
D: It was a double decker train, yes.
F: Did you sit on the upper part, like I told you?
D: No, Fisher, I didn’t.
F: Oh, Daddy, you should sit on the upper part. It’s more funner.
D: More fun.
F: More fun. And, I want you to have fun on your ride to er, uh, eh San Francisco.
D (smiling): Thanks, Fisher. I’ll try to get a seat on the upper level tomorrow.
F (smiling back): Thanks, Daddy. I think you will like it better.
D: Think so, Fisher?
F: Yes. You’ll be higher.
D: Yah, that sounds better.
F: It is. (Turning back to his mallet.) Lucky pones uh-chris crumpet leech!
He hops around the back yard, never leaving the ground for more than a half second. Hope springs eternal.
On Sunday morning, Cory folds a sheet of white paper in half. She cuts triangles out of the folded edge, which become diamonds when the paper is opened back up. She tapes the cut piece to another and paints various colors on the portions of the back one that show through the diamond windows. Fisher is pretty impressed.
F: Oh, Cory, that is so pretty!
C: Thanks, Fisher.
F: Can you show me how to do that, Cory?
C: Yes, Fisher, but it takes some work, so…
F: But, I can do it.
C (seizing her opportunity): I have a good idea! We could play school. I can be the teacher, and you can be the kid. Okay, Fisher?
She proceeds to walk him through the steps one by one, patiently guiding her student toward success. They bring their results in to show Daddy, who praises them and hangs them up on the kitchen cabinets.
Fisher heads off to their room. A few minutes later, little Miss Teacher calls out to her pupil.
C: Fisher? Fisher, can you please sit back down in your seat?
C: Fisher? Can you please sit down in your seat? We have another project, so…
F (from the bedroom): No, thank you.
C: Fisher, it’s time to sit back down and do our project.
F (muffled): No, thank you, Cory.
C: But, we need to do our project now. So, could you please sit down at your desk, Fisher?
F (done with playing school): No.
C (enticing intonation): But, Fisher, we are about to choose the Lucky Ducky, and only kids who sit at their desks can be the Lucky Ducky.
F: But, I was the Lucky Ducky yesterday, so I can’t be the Lucky Ducky again.
C (as if to a whole class): So, today we have a new rule. Anyone can be the Lucky Ducky today, even if they were the Lucky Ducky. But, iffin you are not at your desk, then you can’t be the Lucky Ducky. So, who wants to be the Lucky Ducky today? Whoever does sits at your desk, so…
F (running to his seat): Oh, yay!
As returning kindergartners, Cory and Fisher have no separation anxiety or antics when it’s time to say “goodbye” the first few mornings of class. Not so a boy on the playground being dropped off by his dad. “Da!” he yells, as his dad tries to disengage. The dad makes the boy stay on the playground as he first moves to outside the fence. His gestures indicate that he’s telling the boy to stay put, that he, the dad, will also stay for a few minutes, and that the boy should go play. The boy just wails. “Da!” They speak another language to each other. But, the boy’s fear and anxiety is so strong, all of the other parents around, including Daddy, well up just watching. “Da! Da!” The calls escalate as the dad slowly starts walking along the fence toward his car in the parking lot.
D (walking over to Fisher): Fisher, come here.
F: What, Daddy?
D: (bending down and whispering): Do you see the boy over there?
The Boy: Da! Da! Da!
F: Uh huh.
D: He is missing his daddy so much already. Can you go ask him to play?
F: Um, I don’t know him.
D: Well, he’s a kindergartner. And all kindergartners are friends. I just thought that it would be nice if you helped him calm himself down, maybe by playing with you.
D: You don’t have to. I just thought that it would be nice. Bye bye, Fisher.
F: Bye, Daddy.
Fisher didn’t go over. The next day, Daddy finds out that the boy is in Fisher’s class. When the calls of “Da! Da!” ring out, Daddy again approaches Fisher.
D: Fisher, if you want to go help that boy out, that would be so nice!
F: Daddy, he doesn’t want to play with me. He has a girl. She speaks the same eh, er, uh, language that he does. And they just talk to each other.
D: Is she here?
F (looking around): Um…I don’t see her.
D: Okay. Well, if you want to go ask him to play, maybe he will. Do you remember last year when Daddy dropped you off, and you would cry?
F: Uh huh.
D: And you didn’t want me to leave, so you would just keep crying?
F: Uh huh.
D: Well, it was so nice for other kids to help you, and that’s all that I’m asking you to do. If you want to. You don’t have to.
F: Okay, I don’t have to. He has that girl, and they can just speak Russian to each other.
F: But, he just cries all day.
D: But, that’s because he’s sad.
F: I know that already.
A day or two later, after other tear-filled mornings, Daddy arrives to pick the kids up just before the little boy’s father. The rapture on that boy’s face when he sees his dad’s car pull into the parking lot is just amazing. His eyes light up. He jumps up and down. Before his dad is out of the car, the boy is yelling, “Da! Da! My da!” Again, Daddy wells up just watching. The boy isn’t yelling to anyone, and he doesn’t care whether anyone is listening. He’s over the moon, his long day of torture over. His da is here. A few minutes later, when the two come together, every other parent present smiles.
Kindergartners are invited this year for the first time to attend Friday morning school assemblies. Daddy, and a bunch of other parents, stick around to see how these things go. Beforehand, though, Daddy notices that, after about six days of wailing at drop off, the little boy is running around the playground, no longer distraught. He’s playing with a little girl, maybe the one who speaks his native tongue, no longer standing rigid, by himself, either yelling or whispering, “Da!” Daddy heads over to the blacktop. The principal, who stands out like a rock star in front of the gathering kids, counts down from ten, expecting everyone to be seated on the ground by the time that she finishes. There are only a couple of stragglers as she reaches one. She runs through birthdays for the week before getting to the message of the assembly.
She explains that in the first few days of class, kids have been introducing other kids to her: “This is so-and-so. She doesn’t speak any English.” She reminds everyone that if you can say ten words, even one word, of English, then that statement isn’t true. She encourages everyone to shift their language to “This is so-and-so. She is learning English.” It helps everyone to feel included and good about themselves. She also reminds speakers of any language to be mindful and respectful when they are speaking to the extent others around them can’t speak that language.
She announces that there are students from this school who were born in 25 different countries, that about one-fifth of the student body was born abroad. She runs through all 25 birth countries and invites those born there to stand and be recognized: from the U.K. to Moldova, from Jordan to Uzbekistan, Italy to Mexico, Russia to Kazakstan. On and on. She ends with a reminder to everyone of how cool it is that the school is so international.
Daddy walks away from the assembly thinking about how hard it would be on Cory and Fisher to be left on the playground at a school in a country far from their birthplaces, where everyone is speaking a different language, where the culture is very different, where what eventually will connect them to the other children is temporarily eclipsed by the terror of feeling left alone. He can hear their screams, “Daddy, no! Daddy! Daddy! Don’t leave me!”
D (that night): Fisher, what do you think it would feel like to be in that little boy’s shoes? To be left on a playground with kids who speak a different language because I have to go to work?
F: I don’t know.
D: Do you think you would be happy or sad?
F: Sad, Daddy. Very sad.
F: That is a good reason that I am a twin.
D: What do you mean?
F: Because if you left me at a school where the kids speak, where they just speak, eh, er, Russian, then I would still have my sister. I would just play with Cory, and then I wouldn’t cry like he does.
D: Well, he’s not crying anymore.
F: I know that. I wouldn’t cry like he does, though.
The boy’s relatively quick adjustment to school drop offs remains worth a smile every time Daddy sees him, a smile and healthy respect, particularly because Daddy doesn’t share Fisher’s confidence that Fisher (or Cory) would have gotten there that fast, even with a twin around for added comfort. The boy just cleared a very scary hurdle, winning the hearts of every parent watching.
Daddy walks in the kitchen to find Fisher at the sink…
F (wagging a finger): Bad, boy! You bad, boy! Bad, boy!
D: Fisher, what are you doing?
F: I’m telling “bad boy” to that cheese grater in the er, uh, eh sink. Because it cut you.
D: Thanks, Fisher, but it was really my fault. I should have paid better attention when I was grating that cheese.
F (walking over to Daddy and wagging his finger): Okay. Bad, boy, Daddy! You are a bad boy!
Daddy’s finger throbs, while Fisher laughs and Cory rolls her eyes.
F (later in the morning): I wish a good witch could see your finger so she could heal it.
He sits down to make a rainbow loom bracelet to decorate Daddy’s “tubee” because “it doesn’t look good, just white.” At the emergency room, there were two others sitting around with makeshift bandages over bloody fingers. The tech called it “slicer” night. In the morning, Daddy’s tube gauze bandage renews the twins’ respect for sharp things. That’s the only up side to losing a chunk of your thumb.