Tuesday, January 6, 2009

hi. hello. again.

last night, i panicked. "wait, i thought it was wednesday night!?" my first thought upon reading the reminder email about my "Tuesday night" volunteer project.

When my alarm clock sounded today, i knew--even before i shook my lazy bones out of bed, that i wasn't ready. 6:30 am and a self-doubt ticker already circling my head. "What do I even wear to mentor kids? And who are these kids? They're not gonna like me. Are they teenagers? Oh no, please please don't let them be teenagers." I'm terrified of teenagers.

I'll wear all black. At least, that way, if they are teenagers, they won't tease me for being too eccentric or too plain, or for trying too hard or not trying hard enough. And perhaps I'll just blend in and become invisible and not be reduced to the wretchedness of my own teenage years all over again. And I'll wear the earrings that Maria bought me from Brazil, because I feel like less of a kid myself when I wear large earrings. *catholic-school-girl brainwashing*

So, I got dressed in my all black, pinned up my hair in slightly-messy bun à la easy-breezy authority figure, grabbed my pack of Capris, just in case I need one after the self-esteem pummeling--I mean mentoring (damnit! only ONE cig left in the pack), and onward.

Nine hours later, after my day-job, I'm walking east on 125th toward the Harlem rec center. I don't miss Harlem, and the 2 bulky, hooded guys ogling me on Lenox and 123rd reminded me why I don't miss Harlem. But, I DID pick up two bars of honey-and-apricot shea butter soap from the african vendor--so maybe I miss Harlem a tiny bit.

I'm on 122nd now and walking toward the rec center. It's a quiet, unlit street and I'm already not liking the secluded-feeling of the street I have to walk down to get to it, asking myself if I can commit to this dark, seedy walk for the next 6 months. No one would mug me just one block from a children's rec center, would they? Maybe I can find a better-lit, less seedy alternate route. I used to live here...what's happened to my fearlessness? Wait--I was never really fearless.

When I get to the center, two lady security guards have me sign in, tell me I look like one of the parents--"the chinky-eyed one," and point me through the royal blue double doors. When I get through the doors, I keep walking, slowly--not sure if I'm in the right place. I'm waiting for someone to point me further in the right direction or a big sign with an arrow that says "This Way," when Claire, our fresh-out-of-undergrad team leader cheerfully waves me into the classroom. I'm thinking "Good, she's friendly." So far, so good. An i-don't-wanna-be-here-and-i'm-not-hiding-it team leader would have prematurely ended it for me.

When the students arrive, they're high energy, expressive THIRD GRADERS. YES! No teenagers! We all sit and give introductions, and when we're asked to break into our teams, a lovely, giggly little girl named Heaven, points to me and says "I want her!" She wants me *smile*

I won't tell you about the two short stories Heaven and I wrote today (though one was about her and I becoming "best best best friends")--I want to protect the confidentiality of this young author. But I will say that we're off to a great beginning, and I will be making the walk down the dark, seedy street (or an alternate route...lol) to the rec center, with the two lady security guards, the blue doors, and Claire--2x a month--to help Heaven spill her big, beautiful imagination onto notebook paper.

Oh, and she didn't care what I was wearing and didn't notice my earrings or that I wasn't quite as ready as I thought I should be. And I didn't smoke that cigarette.


rashad said...

Welcome back. I hope you're in a better place now

Janelle said...

Yeah you're back!!!! :)

And what a beautiful program. Please give me some info. While I've already committed every other Saturday to another volunteerish gig(good work for the kids but they pay me), I'm always looking for good works to get involved in. And I THINK I know where you're going so here's the best suggestion. Walk east on 124th street on the side of the all boys catholic high school. That building is usually lit and because its a catholic school people still show it *some* respect. The other side?? Ummm not so much. LOL Then you can cross the street in to the park (and that corner is well lit) where I THINK the rec center you speak of is located.

Chubbs said...

thanks rashad and janelle.

janelle, it's the young authors club through new york cares, and i think they have several of these, but 3 or 4 in harlem. and yes, it's the rec center you think it is. thanks for the tip. xo!

£ said...

welcome back chubbs! we missed you!

How cute is Heaven?

"I want her!"

Whats better than a child seeing you and taking a liking to you immediately? Thats one of the best feelings ever. That's the kind of thing that would totally make my day. Actually it has. Especially reading about you and heaven's story about becomeing best best best friends. Cultivating the imagination of young minds, nothing better :-)

Love the new lay out and you're just as pretty as ever! xoxo