I was barely into my first session with this year’s first-grade Reading Buddy, when he made his pronouncement.
“You’re kinda goofy,” he said.
I had just pointed out to him that my turquoise shirt matched the turquoise paper he had chosen for his scarecrow’s overalls. This was the craft segment of our hour together.
“I match the scarecrow!” I chirped, thus provoking his character assessment.
This is my third year as a Reading Buddy, but it’s the first time I’ve had such a serious little guy. Jack seldom smiled, and he didn’t quip and act silly like so many first-graders do. To be fair, it was his first time having an adult mentor,
and I obviously wasn’t what he expected.
“Are these all grandmas?” he asked next. I assured him that we women were all grandmas.
“Are you a grandma?” he persisted, sounding a big incredulous. When I assured him that I was, he glanced at the much-older, white-haired woman at the desk next to ours.
“I thought you’d look more like her,” he said. I didn’t press that question any further, deciding instead that “young at heart” must show in the face or the attitude. I decided to be flattered.
“Are all the grandmas here as goofy as you?” he asked, after doing a quick survey around the room.
I pointed to the woman on the other side of us, someone I knew from previous years.
“She’s very goofy,” I said, in a voice meant to carry. The woman fell right into line with the gag.
“Oh, I am,” she said. “Very goofy.”
We continued to work together. I made gentle suggestions about assembling this scarecrow and added silly comments here and there. When Jack pasted on a couple of red eyeballs, and then hauled out a magic marker to make pupils in the eyes, I breathed a supposed sigh of relief.
“Now he can see,” I said, chuckling. “I thought we were going to have a blind scarecrow.”
Jack gave me one of his inscrutable looks.
“Why do you laugh all the time?” he asked. He made it sound like a character flaw, and I felt my exuberance faltering.
“Because I’m having such a good time,” I told him. “It’s fun to laugh.”
He seemed to accept that, and we continued to work, keeping one eye on the clock. Eventually, I saw the occasional twinkle in those serious brown eyes across from me, and a little smirk of a smile as he made a few quips of his own.
By the end of the hour, I made my own pronouncement.
“I think we’re going to have a good year together,” I said.
He stopped what he was doing and raised startled eyes to mine.
“You mean I’m going to have you EVERY time?” he asked.
I’m still wondering whether that was delight or alarm I heard in his voice.