He was five when he walked into my classroom. He resembled an elderly man more than the kindergartener that he was. He had an unspoken sorrow and a heart that knew pain his peers were too young to comprehend. While they were reading fairy tales and watching animated movies he had been forced to grow up as he observed his mother fading away.
He was only five but endured life experiences most of his teachers hadn’t ever lived through. He was so quiet and still that most visitors failed to notice his presence. He had a story only known to two souls in these classroom walls, him and me. He had a story that changed everything and I was the only one to know.
As the year went on, the absence that clouded his kindergarten journey became evident to the families of our school community.
The confusion and wondering began at the beloved “Muffins with Mom” event. As everyone held hands with their mothers, and some even their grandmothers, they’d glance at him and whisper, “Where is his mom?” as he sat eating quietly with his grandfather.
The hearsay and mumbles continued during the Fall Festival. As everyone played games and picked pumpkins with their families, traditionally composed of mothers, fathers and siblings, they’d glance at him and whisper, “But where is his mom?”, as he walked around with his teenage babysitter.
The judgemental questions pursued at the Annual Christmas program. Each class sang and danced as the audience laughed and clapped. As he pranced to the microphone for his recital debut, you could vaguely hear the mumbles, “But where is his mom?”
As field trips came, holiday parties passed, and the traditional events of kindergarten concluded, the stares and questions remained, “But where is his mom?”
No one ever asked him the concern and wondering about his mother and sometimes I wish they would have. Sometimes, I even wish they would have even had the courage to ask me, his teacher. My reply would have been this: “His mother is here and has been here all year. She watches silently with pride and a bold and powerful love. She is in awe of his intelligence, compassion and bravery. She doesn’t come early to save a seat in the front row, she doesn’t sign up to help bring treats for parties, and she doesn’t chaperone field trips in the traditional sense, which is where you have looked for her all year. You see, his mother is in heaven. She has a view so delicate that it doesn’t require a seat or a nametag.”
And as I silently proclaim my hypothetical response to the yearlong whispers of concern and judgement, I hear his soft voice say: “My mom, well she’s not here, she’s gone. She’s in heaven and her superpower is that she can love me from up there. She can love me from anywhere.” His words to his inquisitive classmate are perfect. They’re pure and full of kindergarten truth, simple and unapologetic.
How had I not realized that this entire year our classroom had held the son of a superhero? I was emotionally clouded by his grief, while others were boldly captivated by his absent parental figure, that we had all failed to see the unique soul our four walls contained, the son of a superhero.
Now, I’m excitedly waiting for the next moment where someone says, “But where is his mom?” so one of us can valiantly say, “His mother is in heaven and her superpower is that she can love him from there. She can love him from anywhere. He’s the son of a superhero. He’s the son of a mother that loves him from heaven.”
A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.