This article originally appeared in The Local Voice #207.
To download a PDF of this issue, click here.
Recycling, Rebellious High School Senior, and Single Mom in Distress
She was terribly upset and couldn’t imagine one more year of frustration, parent teacher conferences, and monthly grade reports.
“No way you are quitting on me here! You are going to graduate this year! I will help you out. What worries you the most?”
“Well, my history teacher is a jerk… And that English class capstone project…First I wanted to play violin, but I forgot almost everything, so I choose recycling, but I still don’t have even a slight idea what to do!”
“So easy! I am going to call the recycling site director and ask for an advice. We would distribute flyers, talk to people about recycling, something like that, and then you’ll write a good report about it. And I should talk to your history teacher, too”.
She rolled her eyes, helplessly looked around and spotted a few words in her native language written on a black board. They meant “dirty rotten dick”.
She pointed: “I can see something familiar here. What is it about?”
“At the beginning of a school year, I asked all international students to write “my history teacher” in their own language. Why?”
There were also a few Chinese characters, angular Hebrew and some Arabian calligraphy on that board. She could only guess, what they really meant…
She asked, if her son could do something to improve his grades. The teacher wanted some posters to be made, so that part of the graduation task was set.
Recycling capstone project was next.
She brought home a bundle of flyers from the city recycling facility, and told her son to distribute them around. A few weeks later nothing was done, so one evening she came home from work, grabbed damn flyers, jumped in a car in frustration and ran around town with a stapler and a glue.
Seriously, how was poor 17 years old child supposed to distribute so many flyers on feet? (No matter, that being much younger, back in his home country, he was walking around town with friends for hours and hours, feeling happy and having all fun in the world).
There was not much time left, the project presentation was going to happen in a couple of days. He kept sabotaging it, so she said: “Well, you don’t have time now. You know what? Just write me a story, make it up. Imagine, that you went and did it all, describe how much time you spent on this and that, how many people you met, what they were saying, what you taught them and how you walked around the neighborhood and glued the flyers to the walls. Write about pollution, dying fish, about whales, constipating on plastic bags, beautiful trees which could be saved from being cut and so on. Promote road kill eating as a sort of recycling! Just write it really well, I know you can write better than I do. For God’s sake, isn’t it an English class project? And what is English class about if not about writing? So, go ahead, and write!”
And he went ahead and wrote it all in a couple of hours—in good English, with all time tables, examples, descriptions, and details one could only imagine.
But at the presentation, when she was sitting there all made up, wearing the best dress she owned (which actually looked like the one some old lady would wear to the funeral), waiting to hear his wonderful recycling story, he got up, shuffled in front of the class with his squeaky violin he used to play back home, until they moved to US, and played some terrible Tchaikovsky song from the Nutcracker ballet.