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Baby Girl is wrapping up her third year of teaching Kindergarten. Her job is about a seven-hour drive from us and there’s not a lot that old dad can do for her from this distance save for the occasional Daddy-How-Do-I-Fix-This-Facetime call. But every spring she bundles up all of the pictures and the videos she’s taken over the course of the school year and ships it to me and I do what I’ve spent a lifetime doing: making a little television.
There’s a lovely song called “Just Be You” recorded by Anthem Lights and I make the kids and their parents a video scrapbook of their first school year built around that song. We can’t distribute it because of copyright reasons, but the limited one-time showing in the classroom at the end of the year is made more complicated by the sad state of affairs the Internet has made in some of the lives of our children.
Among her 18 charges is a little boy called Tommy.* The details of his family life won’t be recounted here but needless to say they are a little messy. Neither his mother or his father are in the picture and Tommy is being raised by one of his grandmothers. He is her’s by court order as neither of the parents is seen as being fit by the state. He’s not just in school, little Tommy is in witness protection. My daughter is under strict orders not to include him in any pictures on the outside chance that a parent or someone associated with the school system might accidentally put his image on the Internet and give one of his parents a clue as to where he is.
“Daddy, it’s horrible. Every time we’re out on a field trip and somebody takes out their phone, Tommy runs and hides behind my assistant,” my daughter lamented to me. “We’ve taught him to be scared of everything!” Group photo? Nope. Hide, little man, hide. You don’t belong here.
My edit always includes an individual picture of every child that my daughter takes on their first day of school along with their name. This year we thought of just doing away with it all, but Tommy’s grandma gave us permission to include him as long as it never ends up on YouTube. In a three and one half minute presentation on Kindergarten Award Day this spring, the little boy who doesn’t belong will belong, if only for four fleeting seconds.
And then it goes down the memory hole never to be seen again. And then the little boy who doesn’t belong becomes the little boy who was never there. Godspeed, Tommy boy. May a fleet of angels protect you for the rest of your days.
*Obviously, Tommy is not his real name.