I stole two small pencils from school today.
I didn’t mean to; I forgot about them in my coat pocket. I borrowed them on the way out the door of school, on the way to take L to see the balloons.
Today is the day the enormous balloons are inflated for the Thanksgiving parade.
I put the two small white pencils into my pocket so that L and I could draw the balloons being filled up.
I picked up L for her reading appointment after lunch. I’d just come from taking a group to see the balloons, and I knew L would like seeing them. I whispered to her to get her coat; we were going to see the balloons. She beamed. She is a reluctant smiler in school.
We walked up Columbus Avenue. She slipped her fingers out of her coatsleeve and held my hand in a way that was soft but not limp; she was comfortable. “So what are you doing for Thanksgiving, Ms. M?” she asked.
This is a child who balks at answering, “How are you?” when I ask in my office.
First we saw the helium truck. Then we saw Ronald MacDonald, with his red afro inflated and the rest of his body spread out behind, flat and wrinkly. We saw Shrek, plump and full of air. We saw Spiderman and found the patch that covered the opening where air went in. L mused about the restraints holding the balloons in place: “How they get that net up there? It looks like a big net. How they do that?”
We went back to watch Ronald MacDonald’s progress. Now his shoe was being filled with air by hissing hoses held by young men in red coveralls. “That is a lot of work,” said L a few times. “Where that noise come from? Is that water?” she asked when she heard the hoses turned on.
I turned us towards drawing what we saw. When I handed L the clipboard, she hastily drew a stick figure and then glued her eyes back on the workers and their hoses. I said, “Let’s look and draw. Here, I’ll give you an outline.” She watched as the hump of the balloon emerged on the page, and when I added a little worker in front, she seized the pencil and began to draw, to look and draw, tentatively copying the way I made crosshatching for the net, and then boldly striking out on her own and drawing a long, looping hose coiled on the street.
I put the pencils back in my pocket and forgot them. After school I rode back to Bushwick on the subway. As I walked up the stairs from the train, I put my hand in my pocket to look for my phone. I felt the pencils in there.