Two years ago, one of my students - a charming, awkward, and a bit excessively good looking kid named Anthony cornered me at my desk and, stumbling and bumbling his way through it, asked me why I wasn't married. He said that I was unusual - not in a bad way, but that there was something about me that was different. Like I didn't need a man. Didn't I want children? Didn't I want to get married?
And yes. Of course I do.
Looking back at my life so far, there were paths I travelled that could have included marriage. But they weren't right at the time. I chose me over that particular brand of 'we'. There were so many missteps along the way. Things that I probably should have and could have done differently. But I don't believe in regret. I did what I thought was best at the time. That's that.
I remember telling Anthony that I wanted to be sure. That I wanted to make sure I didn't make a bad choice. That my happiness was important to me. And that I wanted to have children who could have a happy life as well. I'm not sure Anthony really understood my answer. To be fair, I'm still not exactly sure I understand the big picture of what he was asking.
Anthony is one of my most favorite students I have ever had. Not because he was my best student. He was not. Eloquent, he was not. But ballsy? You bet. Here was a kid who after just a few months of knowing me, looked me straight in the face and asked a most personal question. In front of the entire class. Not because he was trying to be disrespectful, or intrusive, but because he was interested. In the course of a few moments - awkward and unexpected though they were - Anthony cut me to the quick and called me out on something important. And I have the utmost respect for him for that. Anthony is someone I miss every single day. He's one of a select few kids I want to go back to Virginia to visit. I want to see who he grows up to be. I'd love to have a kid who turns out just like him. Even at his worst, most awkward, most fumbling and bumbling.
Today at lunch, I watched a family of 6 - two parents and four very young children - get their seats at a restaurant. One of the children was screaming. The dad tried to appease her. The mom, was not pleased with his efforts or her screaming. When another child spoke, the mother stated - loudly and with such scorn in her voice, that the kid was "just like your father. Just another worthless liar." The boy was maybe 5. The father was right there. Despite the initial horror, more than anything else, in that moment I felt so very thankful. Thankful that I didn't grow up in a family like that. That I have people around me who would NEVER speak to each other, their spouses, or their children in that way.
But surprisingly - or perhaps not so surprisingly - it made me want nothing more than to transport myself back to Virginia and back to Anthony. I'm so thankful for him. For being someone in my life - if only for a brief time, who can remind me that it's ok to be a bit different for the sake of my own happiness. Who reminds me every single time I think of him why I am a teacher, and why, despite all the ugliness and contempt and bitterness out in the world, I do still want to get married. Why I do still want kids. I want the kids - students and my own - who ask the questions all around me. Who put me on the spot and ask the tough questions - especially when others are watching. Who maybe stumble on the words and who sometimes don't make any. flipping. sense. But who care enough to raise their voice. Who care enough to climb on a lap a tell a story from their day. Who care enough to remember that I am a person with very real wants and needs and desires. Who care enough to show that they are confused or concerned. Who want me to be happy. Even if I am single. And in my thirties. And perhaps a bit feistier than is altogether helpful or necessary.
For Anthony, I am so very grateful.