The emphasis is on the final syllable. A-mar -ee.
He is my newest child. I’m a teacher, of sorts, preschool. A Special Education Itinerant Teacher. I join regular preschool classrooms to work with one child within it, usually male, who has special needs, developmental delays.
Amarii comes to me late in the year. We will only have a 6 weeks together, 5 after the hassle and confusion over schedules. They only want someone in the morning. I’m only available in the afternoon. Why didn’t I know this earlier? I am looking at losing half my wages.
Although money for my services comes from the Department of Ed., I work for an agency, a per diem employee. Per diem as in carpe diem, as in take the work while you got it. It works out. They can’t find anyone available for mornings.
Amarii is on the spectrum. He doesn’t talk much, which is hard for me. I’m a gabber, and I like a gabber, but as it turns out, I do well by non-verbals, drawing them out. It’s always precarious though, building trust, connection without force. Being watched, sometimes judged, by the classroom teachers. My connection with the classroom teachers is crucial. I learned that the hard way. I have to make them feel at ease, so when I make them uncomfortable, they can tolerate it. I will need to work outside of their box, because the kids I work with are outside their box. I meet the kid in their world, gently coax them to join mine, ours. It is a delicate dance.
Amarii is attending the preschool of a prestigious university, a center for scientific doctoral and postdoctoral research. His father works there. This place is way the hell out of the way to get to, and once I do get there, it takes 2 weeks before the adults start to trust me. Hassle x 100, quite frankly, but I am determined to make it work. I need the money. I need the challenge.
As I enter the majestic iron gate, and walk the marble path shaded with tall trees, I feel as if I am in another world. A 3rd Culture enclave, it turns out. Every kid in Amarii’s class is an experienced globe traveler, an old soul, a citizen of the universe in need of empathy, and connection. I can relate.
There is something poetic in the nonverbal. The meeting of eyes. Reciprocation of gestures. Shared attention. Intentional relating, without language. It all counts. It counts more than getting him to say something by rote. For this, Amarii is my little guru. Even when he is not paying attention, he is aware. I can feel it. Sense it. It’s profound, primal, spiritual.
Over the next weekend, I meditate more than usual. It is the birth anniversary of my Big guru. The days enfold me. I feel carried like a baby, swaddled on her mother’s back. I wake from a dream about Amarii’s older brother, Magunda. Emphasis is on the final syllable. He, and Amarii, go to the same school. They rarely acknowledge each other at recess, but the bond between them in powerful.
In the dream, we are driving over the African plain, watching the sunrise. The feeling is warm and safe, but vast and timeless. I feel deeply fortunate to witness a new dawn, in the oldest place on earth, to be a part of it.
Monday, when I return to work, and walk into the classroom, Amarii looks up at me, holds my gaze and waves. It’s the first time he has said hi to me.
Amarri. My newest child.
I feel deeply fortunate to witness a new dawn, in the oldest place on earth, the human heart.
Welcome to the 3rd Culture.