Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Considering I am in between tellings at this REALLY sweet elementary school, on the day before I am leaving for two weeks to India, there are a lot of things I SHOULD be doing. I SHOULD be finding out why my mailing list seems to have disappeared from this computer (luckily, it's backed up, but still - where the heck did it go??) I SHOULD be reading more about this exotic, full bodied place that I am about to plunge myself into. And, maybe I SHOULD be writing about the AMAZING librarian who is organizing this three day residency I am in the middle of (and I will - Marcia Kaiser - YOU ROCK!!!) But, for this moment, my fingers want to type about a kid, and I say kid intentionally, that I saw two weeks ago. A KID, that has been the guest of the Morris County Youth Detention Center for quite some time, and when he leaves there will be going to an adult facility for a LONG time (read: years, not months. read: he will be a full grown man when he gets out) "W" I will call him, captured my heart from the very first. He is the kid who is smart, though maybe not educated, a great listener, though he is careful not to show you just how much, and full of insight and wisdom, that I am afraid he and the rest of the world will never really realize. He listens to my stories with the "side of his eyes" sometimes, looking forward, but I can see his eyes slide to my face and hands, I notice the grins, the laughs, and the way he looks at his "pod mates" when he finds things particularly interesting or funny. He is the "alpha" in that group, but not because he puts it upon the others, it is just they all, as I do, feel his inner power, his intelligence, his "something else". The head of the education department that brings myself, as well as four other storytellers into this Center, said of him, "He's the one you wish you could have gotten to earlier." Because, no matter his behavior now, he has done so many "bad" things, his dye is cast - when he turns 18 in the spring, I will tell him his last story, and he will be gone to a "regular jail", where it is my fear he will only grow better at the things that got him in trouble in the first place. It is for him that I prepare my stories and my follow-up activities. In a desperate attempt, I suppose to warp him in my stories, so that maybe, maybe he can hang on to a few nuggets of the imagination for GOOD, that he so clearly has. To help visualize, even just for a breath or two, a world that is not bars, and jump suits, and mandatory lights out. I try to show all the young men and women that I will not judge them, that I see only their humanness,and not their crime, but it is on him, without a question, that I want my words to most fall. He teased me once, when I said too often that I was glad to see the young men in his "pod", but not to see them HERE. 'Julie," he said, with a smirk. "Come up with another line!" He was right. In my wanting them to know that I SAW them, I made a bad joke worse. And, so I don't say that anymore. When I see him, still there, I just say, 'Hey", and I nod, and I tell my story the best way I can. And, I watch him connect with it, with the sides of his eyes.