Sunday, January 11, 2015

What My Daughter Learned on the Mayflower

The Chinese are credited with a valuable tenet about learning.

Maggie's kindergarten teacher Ms. Spry practiced it perfectly. In her capable hands, education was an art form that proved the lasting worth of this quotation.

In November, to help them experience the Pilgrims' Mayflower journey, each child was assigned to be a real person from the ship's role. Ms. Spry helped them research their biographies.

Maggie was Rose Standish.

On the day of the sail, the children climbed into the classroom loft that served as the boat. Maggie told us they pretended sleeping. They pretended cooking. She was young, so the details of what all they pretended to do were sketchy. I seem to remember there was pretended fishing over the loft railing.

But that morning before she left for school, she asked me for band-aids. She stuffed all of them into her pockets, explaining that Rose Standish helped the sick Pilgrims. In Maggie's kindergarten mind, a nurse would have band-aids. I think she actually applied them to the sick and dying because they didn't come back home at the end of the day. She helped how she could.

She told us the Pilgrims who died onboard were buried at sea. In reality, they climbed down and were taken away to another room by the teaching assistant. Maggie saw how it got less crowded on the Mayflower. She saw how food and drinking water decreased. She felt how sad it was when one of her friends didn't survive and vanished.

Try as she might, band-aids didn't always work.

For several Thanksgivings, she told us the harrowing story of the brave Pilgrims and how she had a husband named Myles. She closed with: "Rose Standish tried her very best, but she got sick and died, too. It was sad." We even bought her a Mayflower plate for her annual turkey dinner because the journey was so real to her. She knew their story because she "lived" it.

Now in high school, she told me last week that she had turned a zippered case into an emergency supply kit filled with candy. I assumed it was for her "emergencies," but she said she kept it for other kids who were having a bad day. She has always been a sympathetic listener, gently holding the heartbreaks and worries of others who seek her out for advice and understanding. She's discovered the offer of chocolate works wonders.

Who wouldn't appreciate sweet foil-wrapped kindness on a bad day?

I'm sure those sick Pilgrims loved their neon band-aids, too.

Once Rose Standish, always Rose Standish.

Not because she heard a lecture or took a test or wrote a report on her life, but because she was her.

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