Hating My Math Teacher But Loving Emily Dickinson

If you too hated math and loved writers like Emily Dickinson, this is for you.

Mathematicians and my evil math teachers have struggled to master the science of measurement. From down to up…side to side…. X to Y…earth to sun…here to there. Behold, now at last I can report on the shortest lines between the longest distances: (1)That enormously complicated distance between youth and adulthood [eg. child to parent, student to teacher, newcomer to elder], (2) that mysterious line between them that just may be shorter than even my scowling math teachers thought.

My Eureka moment came just yesterday as two of the grade school kids on our block got off their school bus, and began doing what I couldn’t: Make a big fat funny snowman. The reason I couldn’t is, first, I’m too damn old and wobbly; second, I’m too damn grownup and might look silly.

I was out there checking the mailbox for the bills that come with being a grownup. Billy and Philip, on the other hand, don’t worry about such trivia as bills when their after-school hours have such thick agendas of fun and games. So when they paused and looked up at me wobbling to the mailbox, I sensed a mystical moment of rare understanding between us. Between an octogenarian and 10-year-olds…between a grandparent and a child…between yesterday and today…between what has been and what has not yet come to pass.

I could swear that in that freeze-frame in the snow, Billy and Philip saw a flash of revelation. A brief burst of awareness of the old age their young years usually dismissed:

* For me, for anyone my age, we can easily see, sense and taste their ripening fruit . After all, kids, we’ve been where you are, and we once gulped down that fruit with great un-wobbly gusto

* For them, for all the giggly youngsters Billy and Philip’s age, they seemed just for that instant to look past the gray hair, veined hands, and wobbly stance. Looked into what they themselves would some distant day become. What years of fate would probably impose upon them as they grew up, learned to love, had children of their own, struggled to be all they could be, and then at the end perhaps look a little like me checking a December mailbox with few wonders left in it

The flash of revelation quickly faded. Or did it really happen at all? The three of us are likely never to know for sure….

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