Sasha swivels around in her seat, folds her arms high on her chest, lowers her chin and her eyes well up with tears. 'They're hurting my feelings,' she sniffs. The two blondes at her table look up at me with wide eyes. Still engrossed in their paintings and in their conversation, they can see that Sasha's troubled, but they don't understand why.
'How are they hurting your feelings?' I ask.
'They (sniff) they're talking about how they know movie stars. And I (sniff)--I don't know any movie stars.' Her face is screwed up now and red. The tears fall off her cheeks onto her plaid skirt.
I look at the other two, also in their plaid uniforms. Not sure if there was indeed any taunting, or if their innocent chatter about the movie stars they know was sufficient to send Sasha over the edge. She's prone to needing little bits of extra attention.
The other day Carrie got something in her eye and I knelt down and focussed on her intently and encouraged her to blink, and the next thing I knew the 'something in the eye' disease had become contagious, and four girls surrounded me pointing and blinking. Sasha took one look at the group and approached as well. 'Umm, Miss Morgan?' she said, in a grave, raspy voice. 'I think I should go to the nurse because I just threw up three times in my mouth and swallowed it.'
'Fine with me. Go.'
The two blonde movie-star knowers happen to wear glasses. Gigi's are rimmed in pink, and Trixie's aren't. Both girls squinted up at me, smiling uncertainly. Not sure what they'd done wrong.
'Well,' I started, looking at Sasha who was clearly assuming I'd defend her against this celebrity onslaught, 'you know, movie stars are just regular people--boring old people who just happen to have jobs that make them famous. It's really no big deal.'
'Yeah,' Gigi shrugged, setting her paintbrush down to push her glasses further up her nose. 'And they're just very good friends of mine who are in lots of movies, that's all.'
'See?' Sasha complained, with an accompanying sob. 'She's hurting my feelings again.'
Trixie looked at me, confused. 'But we didn't know it was hurting her feelings, we were just talking about all the movie stars we know. We can't help it that we know them.'
'See?' Sasha begged.
I tamped down the urge to ignore Sasha's complaints. How much fun it would be to pull up a stool and find out which movie stars these girls were talking about!
One youngster's mom knew Jackson Pollack, one is a direct descendant of Walt Disney ('Zoe's the whole reason we even have Mickey Mouse' is the skewed, but funny logic I've overheard since Zoe's been on the planet for about five and a half years), one has a mom who's on Project Runway. One girl's dad is good friends with Susan Sarandon--who to these little girls is just the voice of the evil witch in Enchanted. Regular, boring, old people. I reminded myself. But of course, what a blast it would be to know who these little girls were rubbing their little shoulders with.
'Can't you make them stop?' Sasha pleaded, snapping me out of my daydream.
'Girls, Sasha's feeling a little bit sensitive now, so do you think you could just change the subject?' I asked, soberly.
'Sure!' the girls said, gaily. I'm certain they were glowing inside from knowing their movie stars. When I was fourteen I went to New York City and saw Robby Benson in The Pirates of Penzance on Broadway. That I'd been in the same room as Robby Benson of Ice Castles and Death Be Not Proud fame (the desperate teenage girl kind of fame) felt really wonderful and I'm sure I felt important when I talked about it back in my midwestern high school.
I'm guessing these girls' degrees of separation from their own movie stars didn't involve complete anonymity and two thousand other audience members. Of course it would be fun to know who they know, but of course it doesn't really matter who they know. Of course I did the right thing and never asked.
The tableful of uniformed first graders settled back to their art projects. Sasha settled back in to her painting, and eventually decided she needed to visit the nurse again.
Just a little itty bit of a day in the life of the Upper West Side private school where I've been teaching this year.
6 years ago