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Fifty-One Months

Dear Persephone,

You are fifty-one months old today.

It feels like it’s been an epic month in your life. But aren’t they all epic at your age? And in this city?

Two big things: You finished your first year of school, and you got into a new school for the fall.

For the past year you’ve been attending Pre-K3 at a certain Catholic school in Jefferson Parish on the West Bank. Given that I’m not Catholic, and we live on the East Bank in Orleans Parish, I never dreamed that you’d be going to that particular school. However, that’s where your mama works, and Pre-K3 programs are in short supply. So it made sense for you to got there.

And it’s been good. The extra time with your mother has been nice for both of you. It seems you listen to the radio together and pick out favorite pop songs. And the school curriculum ain’t bad either. You’ve come home every day full of songs and rhymes and an endless number of hands-on projects and activities. Despite having been married to a teacher for the better part of two decades, I was frankly astonished by the work your teacher put into it, and I knew I was only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Before your last day we sat down and made “thank you” cards for your teacher and her assistant.


Actually you made them yourself. I didn’t touch them. I did have to provide some coaching on how to write their names.

(Speaking of letters, you read a sign on the street, just a few blocks from home. It said, “No” and had a picture of a dog. I think that was a first.)

As that chapter of your life drew to a close, a new one has just been beginning. After your final half-day of school, your mother took you to enroll at your new school. You see, we won the lottery. No, not the state lottery. We won the lottery that allows us to enroll you in the school we wanted. I sincerely hope that by the time you read this we’ve found a better system, such as guaranteeing decent educational opportunities for all children, so that kids don’t have to compete in a lottery to get into a good school. But that seems unlikely.

Your class staged a performance on your final day of school. I wasn’t able to attend. I wasn’t able to make it to your old school once during the school year. With a single car and given the distances involved it just wasn’t possible. Your new school is closer to home, and I am looking forward to being more involved.

That’s plenty, but there have been some other interesting developments.

One morning you said to me, “I wish my stuffed animals were alive. I think maybe they come alive when I leave, like in Toy Story 3.” This filled me with a sense of melancholy and nostalgia. It reminded me of my childhood, and also of a yearning that suffused much of my childhood. Later that morning, at my book club, a friend described searching for “portals to Narnia” in a large decrepit mansion when she was young. That yearning again — a yearning for something, a yearning almost painful. Is it a yearning for companionship? Adventure? Transcendence? I don’t know.

Speaking of which, we finished Prince Caspian, then read Persephone the Phony, from the Goddess Girls series. We’re now reading The Voyage on the Dawn Treader. Every time there’s a reference to the poop, you grumble: “Oooh, yuck.” I explain it’s not that kind of poop, but you definitely prefer the forecastle.

You built an altar in your room.

And then there’s Devonte. He’s one of a trio of boys who’ve been stopping by on an almost daily basis. Together they can be kind of rowdy, but alone he is very well behaved. He even joined us for dinner one night, with his mother’s permission.

Devonte & Persephone

Devonte is five years old. He joined us when we were making the thank you cards, and he made some for his teachers. I was very impressed by his handwriting.

You like Devonte. The funny thing is, you think he’s a girl. When I told you he’s a boy, you disagreed with some vehemence. I think maybe you’re confused because he has braids. We argued about it a couple times. Finally you asked me, “Does Devonte sound like a boy’s name?” Well, yes, it does, but I didn’t push the issue. Wow, when you think you know something you can be very stubborn. Nobody can tell you otherwise.

I wonder where you inherited that trait?

Published inLetters to Persephone

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