By Laura Moore

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I saw this electronic postcard yesterday and it made me laugh.

Then it made me air pump my right fist, say "yeah it is" under my breath.

Empathetic bad asses unite, I thought, smiling. 

Then I clicked "share" on Facebook.  

I watched the image load.

And as the wheel turned, as my name slowly stapled itself to the picture--slowly endorsed the motto as truth--I felt regret creep into my gut. 

My mind trounced back through my moments of deep-feeling sensitivity. Moments when I felt anything but strong and super-heroish. Like when I watch this Folgers commercial. Or this Dove one. Or this Always mini-documentary-like video that tends to reduce me to a slobbering mess.

Maybe I shouldn't have promoted deep feeling. 

Maybe I shouldn't have linked those words to my name.

Maybe I shouldn't have broadcasted--to the whole world--my tendency to be hypersensitive (or at least to the friends who have access to my notifications).

Panicked, I clicked on the edit button, and I hovered over the option that would remove it from my page.

Right before I hit click though--right before I erased all traces of its connection to me--my friend Annie hit like, and a few moments later, several other people did as well. 

I could feel the cyber pat on the back. I could feel the energy of empathy, or connection, or the sheer luck that people accidentally hit "like" when they meant to hit "close." 

Regardless, that one little "like" made my doubt run dry. 

There are more of us out there, I remember thinking. 

Then I removed my hovering finger. 

I cleared my mind to think of all of my empathetic superheroes, the people who sat down--and continue to sit down--beside me during my difficult moments. People who hold my hand, who listen, who love my heart even when it is shattered. The people who feel my successes and joys with the same fervor I feel. The people who listen to me, root for me, encourage me, and support me along. 

I thought about how far they've carried me. 

How deeply they've healed me. 

How much confidence they've given me. 

How much I've appreciated the way they've instilled a feeling of belonging, of understanding, of interconnectedness. 

I thought about how much they've mattered in my life--how much they've taught me to survive--and I realized my first instinct, my first read on that silly social media postcard was spot on:

Deep-feeling people rock. 

They're badass super heroes. 

Even if they cry. 

Even if they shake. 

Even if it seems like they're weak. 

Their tears temper dust, they fill empty wells, and they remind us to be thankful. 

Their tears open eyes, they demand attention, they shake our shoulders into action. 

Their tears are magic. 

And their hearts are gold.

And gosh darn it, if I'm being honest, I really want to be one of them.

 
 

By Laura Moore

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I saw them at 4 p.m. when I drove by to pick up my son:

Hair styled, skirts brightly colored, long stem wine glasses tucked into their fingers.

They were laughing the sort of head back, chin up kind of laugh that seems to always accompany barefoot feet, sun-kissed shoulders, open-field turns and violets.

My heart burst just looking at them. I wanted to spin around the block, cruise back on by and steal another glimpse of their sandals pressing against the grass and their eyes catching the final few rays of the day and their cheeks squeezing together like accordions, moving in and out as their ideas leaked into the air and their ears happily enjoyed them.

But I kept going. 

I had a son to pick up. 

I had dinner idling in the crockpot and a dog walk to squeeze in before bedtime. 

And so I carried on with my day. My son squealed when I walked in and I wrapped my arms tightly around him. We gathered his things and headed home, headed back to the kitchen, back to our evening routine.

The women were still there when we passed, and when I saw them, once again, I wanted to stop. I wanted to indulge in their indulgence. I wanted to understand what inspired them. No one--at least no one I see every day--does what they were doing. No one pulls out a lawn chair, a table and a bottle of wine and goes out front. No one dresses up to the nines just to take refuge five feet front their front door. No one sits there, for everyone to see, sipping and laughing and sipping some more. 

I want to be like them, I thought. I want to throw a Wednesday afternoon celebration. I want to pause the world. I want to sit in the front yard and enjoy good company without a care in the world.  

Instead, I pulled into my driveway, I closed my garage, I scooped out dinner and we ate it: chicken and vegetables and a little bread. 

"Do you want to go on a walk?" I asked my son and my dog when we finished, and Finn wagged his tail and Z clapped his hands and the next thing I knew we were strapping on a leash, hooking into a stroller and weaving through the neighborhood, moving as quickly as we could so we could return in time to greet my husband when he got home from his meeting.

When we finished our loop, I decided to take a detour home.

"Let's go this way," I said, turning the stroller, and I led my crew back to our street, back to the stretch of road where those women were sitting and laughing and sipping wine earlier that day. 

I hoped they'd still be there, and sure enough, when we turned the corner, I could see them in the distance. 

"That looks lovely," I told them when I got close enough to speak. 

And they turned to me, raised their glass and smiled. 

"So does that," the older one said, "You probably just finished dinner and now you're out with your baby and your dog for an after-dinner stroll. That looks lovely."

And I glanced down at the wide-mouthed grin on little Z's face, and at the sweet pant coming from my dog's little mouth, and I breathed in the finally-warm air and took note of my bare shoulders and good health. 

"Yeah," I said, turning back to the women. "It really is pretty lovely, you're right."

Then I leaned down and I kissed Z's head, right on top of the ray of sun skimming across it. And I ran my hand through Finn's fuzzy ear and I looked down to my phone, sitting in the cup-holder

"I'm on my way," my husband wrote and my heart felt full.

"I hope you ladies have a wonderful night," I told them as I left. 

And when we got home, I turned around and paused on our front porch. I asked Finn to sit beside me. Then I pulled Z loose and I swung him around over my head. 

Both of us smiled.

Both of us grinned. 

Both of us laughed the sort of head back, chin up kind of laugh that always accompanies barefoot feet, sun-kissed shoulders, open-field turns and violets.

And it really was, honest-to-God, lovely.

 
 

By Laura Moore

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I still remember my seat in your class. 

You set your room up in a U-shaped formation and I was on the long end by the windows. 

During a time when most seats, in most classrooms, were in perfect, straight lines, your room was a refuge for me. 

By filling your walls with art, rather than skill lists, and turning us toward each other, instead of setting us to stare at one another’s backs, your room bespoken open conversation, interaction, imagination and boundless possibilities. 

Your room felt comfortable and engaging, interesting and limitless.

You did as much as you could have done with cinderblock walls tinged a coffee-stain yellow, and your quiet movements in and out of our rows, your creative prompts, your love of journals, your willingness to meet us at the intersection of our individual passion and the larger purpose of our learning not only eased my nerves about entering high school, the big game, the real game, the game we had been practicing for since the day we walked into kindergarten, but it made me feel important. And not overly so, enough to know my surging emotions were the buds of something valuable, enough to know my thoughts--even if they were slightly askew, riddled with tangents, or raw and undeveloped--were worthy of consideration, were worthy of being heard.

I loved your class.

And I loved you.

I loved the way you opened up assignments, the way you cracked open texts and invited us to meander with them, in and out of language. 

I loved that I went to school during a time that was unburdened by rigid requirements. 

I loved that you always looked for the whole rather than the parts. 

I loved that you walked into our room and created a brand new space for us, a space throbbing with life, where we were free to imagine, to wonder, to question, to set our curiosities and our interests in the palm of our hand and pick them apart, spinning them, prodding them, dissecting them--sometimes striking gold and other times dust--but all of the time, feeling courageous, even when the world outside your walls could be cruel, even when peers laughed at us, or dismissed us. 

In your room--in your world--risk felt safe. 

So much so, that on one of the occasions you asked us to share a poem with the class, I remember choosing the poem “Risks.”

I remember standing there--knobby knees, teased out bangs, braces, and all--holding a poem I plucked straight from the pages of The Edge, the sports motivation book I loved without discretion, and telling the class that “the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing./ The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing…/Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom./Only the person who risks is truly free.”

As you can tell from the brief excerpt, the poem isn’t profound or literary. It isn’t sculpted with lines that move--expertly--through gaps on the page, or rise and fall with enviable cadence. And in many ways, my cheeks turn pink thinking that I chose it, thinking that I looked beyond Langston Hughes or Maya Angelou--two of my favorite poets during that time--and chose, instead, to read Janet Rand’s words. 

But at the same time, that choice seems strangely apropos.

You made risking possible because you never judged our passions. You never discredited words--even when they were cliché--if those words rang inside of us, if they spoke to us, if they moved us to be bigger and better. You created a space where all voices mattered, and you taught us to see wider and deeper and from the corner of our eyes. You were the first teacher to unhook me from guidelines and rules, and encourage me to find my own way. You mentored me, cheered for me, and guided me. You were always there for me during the days I spent in your room both freshman year and senior year, but you were also there on the days in between and the days that followed.

I always revered you, and I still do. 

Even now--even though I’m all grown up--I still seek your approval. 

I still flush each time you mention my blog posts or comment on my essays. 

I still want to make you proud. 

No matter how many years slip by, no matter how many times you tell me to call you Diane, you will always be Ms. Haddad in my heart. You will always be that teacher I always wanted to have. You will always be layered in my life of writing, of questioning, of dreaming. 

You don’t need a classroom full of kids, files full of curriculum or an arm full of essays to continue being a teacher. You just need to turn around, to look beside you, and to look at your social media feeds to see the lives you’ve touched. You will always be a teacher, and for as long as I live, I will always be your student.