A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, December 11, 2006

On thin ice

Many years ago, I lived in a neighborhood that surrounded a small lake. It was beautiful and there were all kinds of ducks and birds and squirrels. One day, when we had a snow day, the lake had frozen over and was covered in ice with a dusting of snow. I heard the voices of kids playing in the early afternoon, and I could hear the voice of two kids calling to someone else to come on. The next thing I heard was the sound of cracking ice, and-- a silent echoing second later, shrill screams. I grabbed a broom that was lying in the kitchen and ran down the hill frantically. I nearly broke my neck on the ice-covered sidewalks, but I rounded the corner and reached the lake, where I saw two kids wet from the waist down on the shore, and two others wading out of the water. I sat there gasping for breath, and they climbed out the hill and shivered their way home. They looked at me with wide-open eyes, and I didn't say anything to them other than that they were lucky.

Now, sweetheart, you came to me and told me you were in trouble. We talked a while longer, and I realized that there was some of your story that was not the truth. Maybe you were protecting your illusion of yourself.

But I was left with a decision. I finally had to think of what I would want if I was your mother. I would want to know, even if it made me cry-- which is what your mother did on the phone.

I'm sure you are angry. I hope that one day you will understand that I was afraid for you, and had to make sure someone would take care of you. I will not speak of this with you again unless you bring it up. I was afraid you would fall through the ice and in get in over your head, and not be able to get out. I could hear the cracking, and you could too.

And that's all I have to say about that.


At 12/11/06, 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms. Cornelius, you did the right thing. Never doubt it.

At 12/11/06, 9:16 PM, Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

The right thing and the brave thing.

At 12/12/06, 12:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even though you may not know it for awhile, please know you made a difference.

At 12/12/06, 7:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love ya.

At 12/12/06, 11:50 AM, Anonymous MellowOut said...

You may have saved her life. Don't regret a thing.

At 12/12/06, 4:16 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Thank you. The hour I spent with my head in my hands was intense, as was that phone call.

There is NO WAY I could keep that from the mother.

At 12/13/06, 11:11 AM, Anonymous KauaiMark said...

You made the right and ethical choice.

At 12/13/06, 4:05 PM, Blogger Francie said...

wow, you gave me chills. well done

At 12/13/06, 9:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my daughter's life was saved by a friend who called the police because she was very depressed. (8th grade pressures from other girls can do that to you.)

She told her friend she was going to kill herself and had a plan to do it. The police arrived at our doorstep at midnight, waking my husband and I from a sound sleep, not knowing how desperate our daughter had become.

Her friend saved her life and for that I'm grateful every day. You did what you had to do.

At 12/14/06, 5:18 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Dear ms teacher,

Thank God. Thank God. Thank God.

At 12/14/06, 11:59 PM, Anonymous Laura Huerter0 said...

A terrible situation eloquently expressed. I'm glad she could talk to you and that she's still with us.


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