Her gift is not imaginary
No writing contest would be complete without an entry from Kristy Webster, winner of a past contest whose writing is so unique and impressive the Editor-in-Chief of A Word with You Press (that would be moi ) instigated a gofundme campaign in which so many of you contributed to see her work published:
We are well aware of her fiction-writing abilities, but for this prompt, Kristy chose a very straight-forward narrative of the events that took place during the time of our last presidential election. Here is:
By Kristy Webster
What I remember most are tiny little flags glued to toothpicks, poking out of cupcakes frosted with red, white and blue icing. I remember there were other people in the large banquet room piling up food on Styrofoam plates. I remember hearing funny sounding voices. But I was small, and six-years-old. I kept my eyes fixed on my mother’s skirt and a stack of snickerdoodles.
Even though my mother, a Colombian immigrant, was married to my American father, she lived in fear that someday immigration would come for her and steal her away from her children. Other times, when we were “bad,” our mother threatened to go back to her country and leave us behind. In the end, my mother opted for acquiring and celebrating her American citizenship. Hence, the patriotic cupcakes. I’ve always remembered that day, but it wasn’t until the past two years that I truly came to understand my mother’s anxiety.
Where I work as a third grade teacher, 93% of our students are Hispanic. Many have monolingual parents. Some students were born in the U.S, others in Mexico. Some students are bilingual, others speak only Spanish, and the rest live somewhere in between the two languages, countries and customs. The day before the most recent election, however, they became one pulsing heart, literally crying in small heaps around my classroom.
One boy sobbed harder than all the others. His friend tried to comfort him. But he could not be comforted.
“My mom is from Mexico…” he cried, “My dad says they might take her away.”
His friend, who wore a perpetual smile tried to cheer him up by saying, “My dad says if they send us back to Mexico, maybe Trump will pay for our plane tickets! I’ve never been on a plane!”
But the boy did not stop crying. I knelt down so I could look into his eyes.
“I know you’re scared,” I said, “But there’s absolutely no way that Trump will be elected. Things are going to be okay, I promise.”
I should never have made such a promise. We as adults, should never make such promises.
I watched the angry and heartbroken Facebook posts light up my feed. My liberal friends were horrified. My conservative friends felt vindicated. But I felt like a liar.
I did not want to face my students that morning. While co-workers argued, friends called out for protests, and Trump supporters celebrated, I cried in a bathroom stall, wondering how I could ever gain the boy’s trust back.
Finally, I stood in the doorway, waiting to greet my students. A blonde haired, blue-eyed girl’s face flashed something like an apology in my direction.
“He won,” she said solemnly. “Trump won.”
A wave of anxiety seized my throat. I wasn’t preoccupied with politics, the “big” picture. What concerned me was my students, especially the crying boy to whom I’d given false hope.
When the little boy walked through the doorway, I took a deep breath.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I feel much better after you and my friends talked to me. I think it’s going to be okay,” he said cheerfully. “It’s okay for people to disagree. Some people hate him and some people don’t. Some of my friends,” his head leaned towards another flaxen-haired, blue eyed boy wearing a Trump, ‘Make America Great Again’ cap, “some of them really like him. But they are still my friends no matter what.”
“I’m glad you’re feeling okay,” I said, and I gave him a hug.
A couple months later, we read a biography on Martin Luther King Jr. We read how even when they bombed his house while his wife and child were inside, he stood on his porch and spoke of love.
Usually I can’t stand being interrupted by my students while I am reading to them. But I think the whole classroom lit up with hope when the formerly distraught boy stood up in the middle of class and announced:
“I’m going to be the next Martin Luther King Jr.! I’m going to fight for my people, just like MLK!”
Students cheered. I held back tears.
“When I grow up, I’m going to be a leader like him,” he said.
And you know, I can’t help but to believe him.