Priyanka Lopez, 25 Sept. ’10
Children. Such a nuisance. Always crying, whining, wanting things they can’t have. Why? What? When? How? Question after question shot at you in one breath. I have always considered the job of teachers, caretakers and babysitters as the most demanding job ever. How they take care of these ever-inquisitive and nagging little ones with such patience and grace, I will never understand
As the oldest daughter in my massive flood of relatives and family friends, I was expected to be the one responsible for all the little souls visiting the house. Luckily for me, my mature and confident brother always came to my rescue just before I was on the brink of an outburst over a squealing or bawling child that was rapidly raging out of control. I would always watch him from the sidelines, so effortlessly playing with little kids as though they were his very own best friends. My jealousy would overflow as I would watch a tender kiss or hug placed on him, from the distance, just wishing from my very own core that I was as good as him with children, while a tear would roll down my hot cheek.
Waves of disinclination flood my blood and bones as I am given a whole description of my job at DUCTAC [Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre]. I fearfully wish my brother were here to save me again from this horrendous nightmare, not seven thousand miles away in Michigan University. I sit in the lobby, on a sofa that was clearly bought so that its occupants wouldn’t plant and root themselves there. I sunk lower and lower into its uninviting stiffness, nervously twitching, clutching my clipboard with the twenty seven kids’ names and tags ranging from age 6-14. I sat there watching the second hand of the clock, ticking menacingly towards nine.
A week back, I was absolutely ecstatic and exuberant at spending two months at what could be nothing short of the gates of heaven itself. There were packed cartons of a hundred hues of acrylic paints and brushes as slender as a toothpick, to the girth of a palm. Not to mention sacks upon sacks of powdered professional clay, almost bursting at the seams alongside cutting tools and texture making apparatus. Countless piles of paper with surfaces as smooth as silk to as coarse as sandpaper, watercolours and dazzling sequins snatched my persistent gaze. At that moment I was sure I wasn’t on cloud nine but maybe cloud hundred when I was told I would be given unlimited access to what every artist would find in the ‘Room Of Requirement’ if it were real.
However, little did I know that I would be put in charge of a whole group of children much younger than me, teaching them pottery, painting and crafts. I said a silent prayer to any god, positive energy or supernatural being that would listen as the first few parents ushered their children in. Letting go of the thick bundles of canary cloth from my 5 sizes too large ‘DUCTAC Summer Camp’ t-shirt, I walked towards the main entrance, with a near blinding broad smile on my face, shutting away my nervousness from my outer shell ready to greet the parents.
It was easy talking to the parents and greeting the little ones who hid timidly behind their mums. There were a few, who I could already see myself in, introverted to strangers, drive for art and then there were the others whose eyes sparkled with a familiar impish smile. The first day was hectic, and so was the rest of that week, running about to take children to washrooms, to the canteen, ones who had gotten injured by the lift as well as ushering the others to the next class. For most of the time, everyone was preoccupied at either making gorgeous pieces of art or making sculpting clay into little pots and animals by different techniques. The times at which my heart would really start racing were during the half an hour long breaks inside one room with a bunch of kids with food in their hands which they liked throwing at each other, the girls were very easy to convince that this wasn’t the best place to put the food, but the boys seemed to get an extra kick at seeing me trying to convince them to stop while hysterically laughing at my red face.
As time went by, some kids left, and some new ones joined, I gradually and progressively started to get used to the kids, found out how to get then to listen to me through good ole’ trial and error and by the end of three weeks, no one would have guessed as me being someone who was once upon a time absolutely terrified of dealing with little children, let alone for 4 hours a day, 5 times a week. As I got more and more confident with them, I started equally focusing on my skills in art and perfecting them, while gaining respect from the little ones as they would sit and stare at me with big eyes, shock and awe, all rolled into one.
The amount of love and affection I started getting from them over the next few weeks was tremendously overwhelming and every time I would receive a warm hug from the children as they left in the afternoon, or the tighter ones when they saw me each morning, I finally felt like I was a part of this world. I felt my purpose in this world. I felt a breathtaking feeling of imparting knowledge and sharing talent among others however young or small. When it all came to an end, last hugs, kisses and goodbyes had been shared, all materials used up and heaps of memories stocked up to remember forever, I caught myself shedding a tear once more, and even though I knew I had finally overcome it all, by myself, I was surprised, for this tear was for missing all those little souls that left their imprints on my heart, I shall carry them with me where ever I go.
I carry their hearts, I carry them in my heart.