Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2009. Mattie was sitting on his bed at home and had just lost his front tooth! In his hands was a tooth fairy box. Mattie placed his tooth in the box, and awaited a gift from the tooth fairy that night. Mattie did not want the tooth fairy to leave him money, instead he always had specific requests. So much so, that to spare the tooth fairy any confusion, we always wrote her a note and attached it to the box, so she knew what Mattie's intentions or expectations were! I thought that was an absolute riot. Mattie would request things like a hot wheel car, or one time he asked the tooth fairy for a necklace made out of uncooked pasta. Don't ask! One December (before Mattie was diagnosed with cancer), we took Mattie to Deerfield Beach in Florida to meet up with my parents. Near our hotel was a walking path, and one afternoon, my mom and I took Mattie for a walk. On our journey we went into a shop, and the shop was featuring tooth fairy boxes. I loved the notion and had Mattie pick out a box of his choosing. This box, along with the last tooth that he lost, sits in my nightstand drawer. Along with other important keepsakes of mine!
Quote of the day: The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. ~ Steve Jobs
It was a cold, damp, and rainy day in Washington, DC. My absolutely least favorite kind of weather. Typically on a weekend day like this I wouldn't want to leave our home, but I planned to have brunch with Mattie's kindergarten teacher, Leslie, today. There is probably a reason I gravitated to the field of education as a professional. Teachers are curious about different subject matters, we have the need to find a way to convey information to various audiences, our interests are diverse, and we like to talk and communicate with one another. I grew up living with the ultimate teacher, my mother. Her students and administrators loved her and while growing up, I spent a lot of time with her teacher friends. Spending time with Leslie today, reminded me of those days, and also of my own love for teaching, talking, and connecting.
In our conversation, I learned that Leslie has kept a story Mattie wrote for her kindergarten class. This is absolutely fine with me, since I have a ton of his kindergarten works. Yet what this told me is keeping his writing was important to her and reminds her of the time Mattie was in her classroom. While Mattie was in kindergarten, I visited Leslie's classroom, three times. Once to do a gingerbread project, another time to share with the children a story about a transatlantic journey I took with my family as a child, and the final time was to do a coconut project. Perhaps it is the educator in me, but I wouldn't dream of coming into a classroom, without PROPS! For young ones, I always brought hands on activities, pictures, information, and ALWAYS a snack related to the topic on hand. So if we were learning how to cut open a coconut (which is close to impossible if its husk is still on), I would bake coconut bread for the children to try. I know that Leslie always appreciated my efforts and today we reflected on those visits and the beauty of Mattie.
Besides Leslie being Mattie's kindergarten teacher, she also ran his favorite after school club, construction club. Leslie introduced Mattie to building with everyday objects like cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, bottle caps, etc. That year, Mattie came home with some fabulously creative inventions. He loved being able to work with a hammer, scissors, and a hot glue gun. Fortunately for me, Mattie had excellent fine motor skills and a cautious sense about him, so in my mind he would be safe using these things with supervision. However, as I told Leslie today, construction club taught him life skills. Skills he used each day he was in the Hospital. The skill was the art of creating, building, and entertaining himself with everyday objects. Objects which were also available within the Hospital. Mattie's boxed creations in the Hospital caught the attention of MANY people. So much so, that over time, people would save boxes just for Mattie rather than throwing them out!
In losing Mattie, so many things have changed for Peter and I. Particularly our friendship circles. We no longer have the occasion to interact with our friends at Mattie's school, and the commonalities between us and our friends fade because our glue was Mattie. Our weekends are not busy with weekend events, birthday parties, homework, and the list goes on. We have become empty nesters, and yet age wise, we do not fall into the typical demographics of this group. It leaves us in a quandary at times, feeling isolated, misunderstood, and for me at times angry that my friends have what I no longer do. It is complicated on many levels because this loss comes with memories of a cancer battle, and yet at times, I struggle to remember that I was a mom and that for seven years this was my life and world.