Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "A Hope and a Promise"

This poem came out of the May 3, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from janetmiles and DW user Chanter_greenie.  It also fills the "Wild Card: The Teacher" square in my 4-1-16 card for the Archetypal Characters Bingo fest.  This poem belongs to the Berettaflies thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

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A Hope and a Promise

After considerable negotiation
and juggling of schedules, Aidan
had finally wrangled a return trip to
Easy City so that Saraphina could
reconnect with her bonded people.

Dr. Nicole Chais was still being
a bit reserved, undecided about
how -- or whether -- she wanted
to be a part of Saraphina's life.

Nurse Arlene Verdereau had,
after some thought (and a stream
of family photographs from Aidan)
decided that 'Aunt Arlene' was
an agreeable role for her.

Aidan was determined  to build
an extended family approximating
the scope of what Saraphina recalled,
even though he could not replace
beloved relatives lost to Haiti's
bottom-ten barbarism.

The berettaflies had given him
pause, but he had only stared at
the reports while the condition dropped
from red (one week) to yellow (one week)
to orange (two weeks) and finally green.

They wouldn't be going outside
any more than they had to,
but they were going.

Not even the minor ruckus at the mall,
getting stuck in the bathroom briefly,
had dampened Aidan's spirits and
Saraphina stayed cheerful too.

St. Henriette Delille Hospital lay at
the north end of a planned neighborhood,
which included stores, offices, housing,
a Montessori school, and plentiful parks.

Arlene had suggested meeting in
the multipurpose building that housed
the school, because her children went
there, which gave her access and
would let all three of them enjoy
their meeting safely indoors.

Aidan felt a little nervous while
they waited for Arlene in the lobby of
the retail floor, between the grocery
and the rows of smaller shops.

It was Saraphina who noticed
her first, squirming toward Arlene
with dogged determination.

"Hi there, baby girl," Arlene said,
scooping her out of Aidan's arms.

The bond between them flared
warm and bright to Aidan's senses,
and he felt relieved that Arlene
was willing to permit it.

"It's good to see you again,
Arlene," said Aidan. "Thank you
for inviting us here today."

They spent a few minutes just
basking in each other's company
in a quiet corner of the lobby,
sitting on soft brown benches.

Arlene had a soothing aura,
strong for an ordinary woman,
and Aidan could understand why
Saraphina had latched onto her.

"Ready for the school tour?"
Arlene asked presently.

"Yes, please," Aidan said,
and they rode the elevator up to
the school on the seventh floor.

Arlene chatted with the receptionist
as she logged them in. Apparently
parents could drop by at any time as
volunteers in their children's class.

"Off we go," said Arlene, and
led them through the school.
Her easy acceptance gave him
hope, and a promise for the future.

Part of the lobby featured
a beautiful display of the history
and theory of Montessori education,
full of pictures and summaries and
places to sit down or play.

They walked the length of
the multipurpose room with
its gleaming wooden floor and
neatly stacked gym equipment.

They peeked into the window
of the middle school room and
the small practical life room with
its kitchenette, then paused
to rest in the quiet room.

Then they explored the library
with the study room beyond it.

"This seems pretty ... mature,"
Aidan observed, looking at
the tall shelves of dark wood.

"Books for the younger children
are mostly in their classrooms,"
Arlene explained. "In fact, this end
of the school is for older students.
The younger ones are at the other,
with most of the shared spaces
somewhere in the middle."

"That's good design," Aidan said,
mapping it in his mind with an eye
toward the thoughtful construction.

Across the corridor they glimpsed
the double room for high school students,
its walls painted a leafy shade of green.

Then they walked past the music room
with its grand piano, outside of which sat
a cluster of couches and a bank of
viewscreens showing classrooms.

"Parents and visitors like this little lounge
because it lets them watch the kids
without interrupting," Arlene said.

"That's a good idea," Aidan agreed.

He liked how the corridor between rooms
periodically widened to allow more space,
dotted with desks and tables and chairs
where the people could work or rest.
It was a gentle, elegant place.

Next they peered at the elementary room,
and an art room with large octagonal tables.

"This is the art room for older students,"
Arlene said. "The little ones have theirs
between the Rainbow Room and
the Wood Room on the far end."

"Dottie," said Saraphina as they
approached a restroom door,
pointing at the colorful spots.

"Yes, we have several here,
along with the boys' and
girls' rooms," Arlene said.

"Let's stop for a potty break,"
Aidan declared, stepping inside.

Saraphina's pants were
dry, and she managed
a tinkle in the toilet.

"Wow, you are really getting
the hang of this!" Aidan said.

Then he relieved himself.
Some people thought it was weird,
or creepy, but he had explained that
Saraphina was never going to learn
how if she never saw it done.

Next they visited the nursery,
with its neat row of cribs along
one wall and multiple play areas
scattered around the floor.

"Play?" Saraphina asked.

"I think you might be a little big
for this class," Aidan said.

"It's okay," Arlene said.
"Once they're mobile, children
can move around to the room
where they feel comfortable."

"Okay, go explore, " Aidan said,
setting Saraphina down.

She scampered around the room
under the watchful eye of an Asian lady
who sat in one of the rocking chairs.
She poked at the toys in their bins,
investigated a foam reading table,
and tried out the toddler furniture.

Then Saraphina lost interest.

"Let's try another room,"
Arlene suggested, picking her up.

They walked across the core area
that held the open lobby and elevators,
and then into another wing of the school.

"This side is for our young students," Arlene said.
"The Rainbow Room is mostly used by toddlers
and the Wood Room mostly by primary students,
but people tend to go back and forth a lot."

They stepped inside the Wood Room,
and oh, the place sang to Aidan,
not with power, but with beauty.

Everywhere he looked, he saw
warm wooden shelves and racks
full of fascinating things to do, and
along the near wall, a row of cubbies
for the children's personal possessions.

Aidan also realized that Arlene was
right about the mixed ages -- in addition
to the circle of toddlers listening to a story,
there were kindergarten-aged children
scattered around the room at desks
or other stations for work and play.

Naturally everyone peeked at
the visitors, and two of the toddlers
scrambled over to greet them.

"Mommy!" said a black girl
who looked about three and
had hair in tight cornrows.

"Aunt Arlene!" said a younger boy
with café-au-lait skin and a mane
of frizzy dark brown curls.

"Aidan, this is Malinda, my youngest daughter;
and Cary, my sister Jolie's younger son,"
said Arlene. "Kids, this is Uncle Aidan
and his daughter Saraphina."

Malinda peered up at Aidan.
"Are you Mommy's brother?"

"Not exactly," he said.
"It's a little more complicated
than that, but 'Uncle Aidan' is
a nice easy way to explain it."

He wondered if Arlene had
quite figured out that he meant
the relationship to be a two-way street,
but he wasn't going to pester her.

The two children were too excited
to go back to the story circle, but
Arlene let them cling to her and
pepper her with questions.

Aidan set Saraphina down
to see if she would explore.

Saraphina promptly ran her hands
over the wooden shelves and toys.
"Nice," she said, and giggled.

"Everything in here is meant
to be touched and explored,"
Arlene assured Aidan.

He couldn't resist running his hands
over the beautiful play kitchen with
its oven, stove, and a sink that
had an actual metal basin.

Saraphina crept into a group of
children clustered around a black lady
who was showing them how to fold clothes.

"Hi there, I'm Mrs. Beuze," said the teacher.
"What's your name? Would you like
to join us? Folding is fun!"

The girl nodded, then said,
"Saraphina Dreux."

"Take a card, and I will show you
how to fold something," Mrs. Beuze said,
holding out a basket of cards.

Saraphina looked up at Aidan.
"Anmwe," she said.

"English isn't her first language,"
Aidan explained as he took a card,
which had a picture and a word.
"Ooh, look, this is a t-shirt!"

Mrs. Beuze found a toddler t-shirt
and demonstrated how to fold it.

"Now you try," she said,
shaking out the garment and
handing it to Saraphina.

The girl smiled, and copied her
clumsily but diligently. "Fini!"

"Good job," Aidan said.
"You paid close attention."

Once again, however, Saraphina
lost interest after just a few minutes,
coming back to cling to Aidan.

He worried that she wasn't
very inclined to interact with
other people, not even children
close to her own age.

"It's okay, we still have
the Rainbow Room to explore,"
Arlene said. Gently she shooed away
the toddlers attached to her legs.
"It was so fun seeing you two!
Go back to your class now, and
you can tell me all about it tonight."

Malinda and Cary hugged her
one last time, then toddled away.

Aidan trailed a fond hand along
every shelf and toy that they
passed on the way to the door.

"You know, you could always
buy some of your own," Arlene said.

Aidan shook his head. "I was
thinking about making them,"
he said. "I do woodworking,
among a great many other things."

"Oh, is that your work I've been
admiring in the pictures you've
sent me?" Arlene asked.

"The ones of Saraphina's room?"
Aidan said as they walked toward
the Rainbow Room. "Yes, I've made
a lot of her tools and toys, although
I bought the bedroom furniture
in the interest of expedience."

True to its name, the Rainbow Room
proved more colorful, with shelves in
a combination of white, blue, or plain wood
holding a great many trays and other objects.
Some of them held rows of books, and
Aidan was reassured by that.

Rugs of different hues marked out
spaces on the floor, and clusters of
educational posters adorned the walls.

The average age of the children
seemed lower, but still pretty mixed.
Aidan hadn't seen that in a long time,
and he liked it; he never had approved
of the modern tendency to separate
children based on their ages.

Arlene pointed out a group enjoying
what seemed to be a lesson in
nature or geography in one corner.

"The girl with the curly ponytail in
the green dress is my older daughter Eugenie,
and the boy next to her in the orange shirt
is my younger son Leshaun," said Arlene.
"The boy with the long wild hair in
the red shirt is Jolie's older son Raylon."

These children seemed inclined
to wait until their lesson concluded
before investigating the visitors, and
Aidan didn't want to bother them.

Instead he found himself captivated
by a toddler toy that consisted of
a wooden box with many doors in
bright colors fastened by different latches.

Saraphina demanded to be put down
so that she could examine it more closely.

"I am definitely building one of those
when I get home," Aidan said. "She
can't keep her fingers out of things,
and that will give her something
that's safe to play with."

Maybe it would even keep her
out of his toolbox for a while.

When the lesson finally ended,
Eugenie and Leshaun came over
to see their mother, who made
the appropriate introductions.

"I thought we'd met all the cousins,"
Eugenie said, giving them a solemn look.

"Not even close," Arlene said with a chuckle,
"but this is a special case, even so."

"Oh. Did your family break up, too?"
Eugenie said. "My daddy didn't
want to be with us any more."

"Not exactly, but Saraphina and I
have both lost a lot of people over time,
so please be gentle with us," Aidan said.

That was when Saraphina
plastered herself all over Eugenie.

"Don't grab," Aidan reminded her,
keeping a careful grip on her superpower
so that Saraphina wouldn't create
more instant family ties.

Then Saraphina let go and toddled off
in pursuit of a boy with white-blond hair.

Aidan sighed. He'd been hoping
that she might start forming
attachments in the ordinary way.

"Look on the bright side," Arlene said.
"Saraphina is meeting lots of new people
and she's not freaking out about it."

"Problem?" asked the teacher,
a young blonde woman with
a notable spring in her step. "I'm
Mrs. Ozenne, and this is my classroom.
I'm happy to help if you need it."

Again Arlene made the introductions,
which smoothed the road for everyone.

"Saraphina is newly fostered,
it's been a bumpy ride in some ways,
and I'm just a little worried," Aidan said.
"We're visiting family in town, and Arlene
suggested a trip here. It's been lovely for
me, but I'm not sure how much Saraphina
is really getting out of this excursion."

"Would you like me to make
some casual observations?"
Mrs. Ozenne offered. "I have
a master's degree in child psychology,
so I know some of the positive and
negative signs to watch for."

"Yes, please," Aidan said gratefully.
"Our social worker has been a big help,
but a fresh set of eyes would be welcome."

Mrs. Ozenne brought out a worksheet
that seemed to be nothing but rows of
happy and sad faces above a blank space.
Underneath them she jotted down numbers
and a few key phrases relating to behavior,
but left the rest empty for now.

Saraphina was trying to talk with the boy,
but seemed frustrated by his waving hands.
She turned around and looked at Aidan.

"Some people talk with their hands,"
he explained to Saraphina, although he
only knew a few signs himself. Well, a few
in ASL. He had known whole trade languages,
long ago, but those had fallen out of use.

Some of the words carried over, though,
because sign languages tended to be
a lot more concrete than verbal ones.
The sign for "friends" was usually
some kind of link or connection.

"Saraphina thinks you could use a friend,"
Aidan said, linking his hands together.

The boy looked puzzled, then grinned and
hooked his index fingers around each other --
a similar concept, different mainly in detail.

"Elias has some hearing loss, so he's
learning sign language," Mrs. Ozenne said.
"His sister Elsa is learning it along with him.
Would you like to learn? Let's count to five."

She brought out a set of cards with
the signs and the numbers on them,
then demonstrated with her hands.

Elias already knew those signs.
Saraphina stumbled over "three"
but eventually figured it out.

Then she wandered away again.

"Let her explore," Mrs. Ozenne advised.
"For a toddler, a five-minute attention span
is typical. Ten is great, twenty is amazing.
Don't worry if she switches around a lot."

"Thank you," Aidan said sincerely.

He'd never really timed children, and
to him, modern people all seemed to have
the attention span of butterflies. It helped
to hear what he should expect.

Saraphina drifted back to where
several of the children had coaxed Arlene
into an impromptu lesson about first aid,
which involved cutting bandage tape
with safety scissors and decorating
each other with the sticky strips.

Soon Saraphina drifted back to Aidan,
her dark brown skin liberally striped
with dabs of white cloth tape.

"We do actually have bandaids
in all colors, clear, and cartoons,"
Mrs. Ozenne said. "The student kit
just comes with that white tape."

"That's nice," Aidan said,
struggling not to laugh.

He had spent a while looking
very much like Saraphina did now,
although for the last several decades
his skin had been recovering from
an injury that still hadn't returned
it to his original color.

When Saraphina clung to him,
he picked her up and cuddled her,
reassuring her that he wasn't
going to disappear on her.

As soon as she squirmed, though,
he put her down and let her go.

"That's secure attachment,"
Mrs. Ozenne said. "She explores,
comes back to you for comfort when
she feels anxious, then your presence
makes her confident to try again. She's
a little iffy, but nothing I'd call dangerous."

"As far as we know, Saraphina
had a very loving family in
a very horrible environment,"
Aidan said. "It's better now, but ..."

"She still shows some stress markers
from what happened before, even though
she's safe now," Mrs. Ozenne said.

"That's what we think," Aidan said.
"The biggest challenge is that she
still can't tolerate being separated
from me for more than a few minutes ..."
He paused to translate. "... or not without
another member of her immediate family
that she can latch onto instead of me."

Mrs. Ozenne showed him the page
with the faces marked and her notes
in the space below, with a few sketches
of Saraphina and the other toddlers.

"It's hard to tell without knowing her better,
but I'd say she's doing as well as could be
expected," Mrs. Ozenne said. "Are you
considering Montessori school for her?"

Aidan gave a wistful sigh. "Having
seen this place, I wish I could -- it's
a beautiful school! -- but Saraphina
is nowhere near ready for that yet.
I love the style, though, and it's
clear that she does, too."

"You're probably right about her
needing you all the time, if she lost
her birth family," said Mrs. Ozenne. "Have
you thought about a play group instead of
preschool, though? There are ones for
Montessori, Waldorf, and even Sunshine
although the latter is a community school
and they're usually for residents only."

"That sounds wonderful," Aidan said.
"I don't know if there's one in our area,
though -- we live out in California."

"There are plenty of Montessori schools
in California, so there should be play groups,"
said Mrs. Ozenne. "Some schools offer them,
while others are hosted by parents. If you can't
find one, you could always start your own."

"I'll look into it," Aidan said. "At least
that will give her an opportunity to play
with other children when she's ready."

As they spoke, he noticed that
Saraphina had found someone else --
another toddler with light brown skin and
silky black hair, his face melancholy as
he transferred dry pasta from one bowl
to another bowl with a spoon.

"Oh, I hope they like each other,"
said Mrs. Ozenne. "That's Julio,
and he's been feeling pretty low."

Aidan could feel the waves of sorrow
spilling out from small the boy like
muddy water from a fountain.

He couldn't quite make out
the first thing that Saraphina
said, but he heard Julio reply,
"My grandfather died. He was
really sick. I miss him a lot."

"My grandfather died too.
They cut him up with a machete,"
Saraphina said solemnly in Haitian Creole.

Julio didn't respond to that, but
Mrs. Ozenne and Arlene both gasped,
and the teacher put a hand over her mouth.

"I am so sorry," Aidan said. "I didn't realize
that Saraphina might say things that ... don't
really belong in a school." He had thought
the only hazard was her superpower, and
he could keep a handle on that one.

As he moved to retrieve Saraphina,
though, Mrs. Ozenne stopped him.

"Sad things happen, and children
need to find their own ways of
dealing with that," she said firmly.
"As long as they're not fighting
or crying, let's see what they do."

"All right," Aidan said, and
looked back at the toddlers.

They were hugging.

A minute later, they went back
to playing with the pasta, side by side.

"That's more interaction than Julio
has willingly tolerated all week,"
Mrs. Ozenne said. "I figured
he would come out of his shell
when the time felt right to him."

"Saraphina is ..." Aidan groped
for an ordinary way to explain
her superpower. "... sensitive
and compassionate, so she's
drawn to people who are upset.
She wants to make them happy."

Largely because negative emotions
rained all over her and him both.

“The child is both a hope and a promise
for mankind,” Mrs. Ozenne said, which
sound like a quote of some sort.

When Saraphina came back and
wrapped herself around Arlene,
the older woman picked her up
and said, "Shall we go up and
see the green roof? It's pretty,
and I could do with some fresh air."

"Is it safe?" Aidan asked,
remembering the berettaflies.

"Oh yes, the older students and
some parents got together as soon
as the condition dropped to orange,
and screened in the roof," said Arlene.

"All right, let's go," Aidan agreed.

As promised, the roof garden had
sturdy screens above a waist-high wall
enclosing a gorgeous expanse of greenery.

Aidan could see muscadine grapes
and tropical kiwi vines rambling over
a sturdy trellis, jungle plants around
a hot tub, strawberries in a long trough
bordering a lawn, and a large garden area
above which rose two rows of orchard.

Beyond the orchard, he could smell
the luscious aroma of barbecued pork
mixed with gusts of woodsmoke.

Children swarmed over the roof,
some of them doing a science experiment
at the firepits, others discussing how
the hot tub equipment worked, but
most of them were gardening.

Aidan was startled to see a glint
of deep blue hair catching the sunlight.
One of the teachers, who looked Indian,
had sapphire streaks in her glossy black hair.

She looked up at him and smiled.

"Well hi there," she said. "I'm
Mrs. Bachchan. I wasn't expecting
to meet anyone special today,
but here you are!"

"I'm Aidan, and this is my daughter Saraphina,"
he said, gently discouraging the toddler from
latching on to the shiny new lady. "We're here
visiting family, and Arlene brought us to the school."

"Would you like to explore our gardens?"
Mrs. Bachchan invited. "We're planting today."

Saraphina wormed her way loose
and scurried over to the raised beds
where a redheaded man was supervising
an equally redheaded girl, a black girl,
and a black boy, their ages ranging
from elementary to middle school.

The boy, who was younger,
broke away from the group and
came over to say, "Hi, Mom," to Arlene.

"This is my older son Beaux,"
said Arlene, and then introduced
her guests to the boy. "Take care
of Saraphina, please, we want
her to feel at home here."

"Okay," he said, and went back
to where Saraphina was poking
at the freshly turned soil. "Do you
want to help us plant? The little kids
are digging holes and the bigger kids
are putting the plants in. We're
making a pizza garden -- it has
tomatoes, peppers, and onions."

Saraphina nodded.

Then Beaux showed her what
to do, adding, "Mr. Redmond and
his daughter Teagan came up with
the idea and started some plants
for our garden. Isn't that neat?"

Saraphina silently followed his guidance.

Aidan watched as the two teachers
wove back and forth in a dance that
made their teamwork seem effortless,
encouraging the students of different ages
to follow the same pattern -- and it worked,
with no squabbling over who got to do
which of the tasks in the garden.

"I wonder if Saraphina would like
a garden at home," Aidan mused.
He had one for himself, of course,
but that wasn't quite the same thing.

"At her age, give her a pot or
a corner of yours," Arlene said.

"Plant fast-growing seeds
such as lettuce or sugar peas,"
Mrs. Bachchan advised.
"Little gardeners need
to see progress soon."

Aidan took out his smartphone
to make notes, and the teacher
obliged him with the names of
several suitable cultivars. Arlene
added sunflowers and marigolds.

Tired from all the walking around,
Aidan availed himself of a lawn chair
that the teachers had put on the sidewalk
as he chatted with Arlene about
various gardening ideas.

Ten minutes later, Beaux
reappeared with Saraphina
draped over his hip and shoulder.
"She finished a whole row, and
now I think she needs a nap,"
he said, offering her to Aidan.

"Thank you," Aidan said as he
scooped up the drowsy toddler.

"There are nap mats in the children's wing,
a mattress in their quiet room, or we could
go back to the nursery," Arlene said.

"Saraphina liked the nursery, and
it's probably quieter," Aidan said.

So the three of them went back
down to the nursery to rest.

It was indeed quiet, as
most of the babies were
down for naps of their own.

"We have a little one in need
of a nap, Mrs. Ruan," said Arlene.

"There's always room for one more,"
the Asian lady said cheerfully, and
reached for another nap mat.

An infant began to cry with
a loud, demanding wail.

Mrs. Ruan looked at Aidan,
scooped up the baby, and said,
"Here, this is Cheng, take a rocker
and keep him company while I
finish setting up the nap spot."

"I'm allowed?" Aidan asked
as he passed Saraphina to Arlene.

"He's my grandson and you're
wearing your pin," said Mrs. Ruan.
"Also sometimes a new person will
shush him better -- he's a high-need baby,
but he's also quite a people person already."

Aidan looked down at the Green Heart
pinned to his shirt collar. He had
almost forgotten about that.

So he settled in a rocking chair
and cuddled Cheng, who quieted
as soon as he got some attention.

"You're a busy little bee, aren't you?"
Aidan said, tickling his tummy.
Some babies just weren't happy
unless they had people with them
for every waking moment.

Meanwhile Mrs. Ruan and Arlene
got Saraphina settled onto a nap pad
at the end of the row, close enough that
she wouldn't feel abandoned by Aidan.

Mrs. Ruan retrieved the cooing Cheng
and set him up with a baby mirror
that had him squealing in delight.

The rocking chair felt so comfortable
that Aidan really did not want to get up
even after returning the baby.

Arlene had begun singing a lullaby
very softly in French -- the Louisiana version,
not the Haitian, but Aidan suspected that
Saraphina would like the song anyway,
its soft sound a hope and a promise.

It put him to sleep too.

* * *


Saraphina Dreux -- She has dark brown skin, brown eyes, and long nappy black hair.  Her age is originally estimated between 18-30 months, probably about 2 years.  (Aidan says that she is 21 months, about a week shy of 22, when he first meets her.)  She has a vocabulary of several dozen words and can use some two-word phrases.  Her heritage is Haitian and she speaks Haitian Creole, a French-based language with West African influences.  However, she came to America in a boat of Cuban make labeled in Spanish, which added to the confusion.  She likes to follow people and copy whatever they are doing or saying.
 Saraphina has Soul Powers which so far include Soulgazing, Soul Healing, Soul Resonance, and Soul Shield.  Other powers are likely to develop over time.  Her abilities to date seem focused on defensive and restorative applications rather than offensive ones.
Origin: She was born with her superpowers, which have been growing for sake of survival.  Already she has lost all her siblings, both parents, plus some other relatives.  This has given her a worrying sense that people often go away and don't come back, which makes her try to create attachments to people she likes.
Uniform: Toddler clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Connection with Aidan Spencer, Good (+2) Connection with Arlene Verdereau, Good (+2) Connection with Dr. Nicole Chais, Good (+2) Connection with Piotr Taylor-Morgan, Good (+2) Connection with William Jamesley, Good (+2) Durable, Good (+2) Mimic
Poor (-2) Anxious Attachment
Powers: Good (+2) Soul Powers
Motivation: Survival.

Dr. Nicole Chais -- She has wavy brown hair, brown eyes, and pinkish-fair skin.  She speaks English and Cajun.  She works at Saint Henriette Delille Hospital in Easy City.
Uniform: Pink scrubs.  St. Henriette's uses pink for the doctors' uniforms.
Qualities: Master (+6) Pediatrician, Master (+6) Dexterity, Master (+6) Memory, Expert (+4) Fastidious, Expert (+4) Quilting Bee Member, Good (+2) Hunter, Good (+2) Politicking, Good (+2) Tolerance, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Imposter Syndrome

Arlene Verdereau, RN -- She has medium brown skin, brown eyes, and straightened black hair that she usually pulls into a ponytail.  She speaks English and Louisiana Creole (Kreyol Lwizien).  She works at Saint Henriette Delille Hospital in Easy City.  Her sister Jolie works at the Brass and Bass, beside the Hot Java coffeehouse, in the same neighborhood.
Uniform: Fuchsia scrubs.  St. Henriette's uses fuchsia for the nurses' uniforms.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Childcare, Expert (+4) Constitution, Expert (+4) Registered Nurse, Good (+2) Bayou Skills, Good (+2) Connection with Saraphina Dreux, Good (+2) Cook, Good (+2) Courage, Good (+2) Gumbo Ya-Ya, Good (+2) Singer
Poor (-2) Brokeass Broke

Jolie Verdereau -- She has medium brown skin, brown eyes, and long dark brown hair worn in its natural curls. A tiny diamond stud adorns her left nostril. She speaks English and Louisiana Creole (Kreyol Lwizien), with a particular knack for the Gumbo Ya-Ya trick of sorting out a single thread of conversation when everyone is talking at once. Jolie has two sons, Raylon (4) and Cary (2); she also has a nephew, Beaux (9); a niece, Eugenie (6); a nephew, Leshaun (5); and a niece, Malinda (3).
Jolie works as the senior hostess at the Brass and Bass restaurant, beside the Hot Java coffeehouse in Easy City. Her older sister Arlene works at Saint Henriette Delille Hospital, in the same neighborhood. Jolie loves traveling, and her community college roommate is now a travel agent. Whenever possible, Jolie takes advantage of package deals that allow her to bring along Arlene's family too. They have close family ties. Jolie is all up in everyone's business, though, which can get on some people's nerves.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Restaurant Hostess, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Pretty, Good (+2) Traveler
Poor (-2) Meddlesome

Malinda Verdereau -- She has mahogany skin, brown eyes, and long nappy hair of chocolate brown. She is the daughter of Arlene Verdereau, younger sister of Beaux (9), Eugenie (6), and Leshaun (5). Currently Malinda is 3 years old. She lives in Easy City and attends a Montessori school in the neighborhood of Saint Henriette Delille Hospital. Unlike most toddlers, she doesn't mind taking naps, but has difficulty waking up.
Qualities: Good (+2) Listener, Good (+2) Musical Intelligence
Poor (-2) Sleep Inertia

Cary Verdereau -- He has light brown skin, brown eyes, and a mane of nappy brown hair that tends to frizz. He is the son of Jolie Verdereau, younger brother of Raylon (4). Currently Cary is 2 years old. He lives in Easy City and attends a Montessori school in the neighborhood of Saint Henriette Delille Hospital.
Qualities: Good (+2) Affectionate, Good (+2) Easily Amused
Poor (-2) Short Attention Span

Montessori Toddlers
The boy with nappy hair in the sky-blue shirt is Jolie's younger son Cary, 2. The girl with the cornrows in the melon dress is Arlene's youngest daughter Malinda, 3.

Tallullah Beuze -- She has toffee skin, brown eyes, and straightened brown hair to her chin. She works in the Montessori school in the St. Henriette neighborhood of Easy City. Her favorite lessons involve practical life skills and crafts.
Qualities: Master (+6) Child Development, Expert (+4) Primary Montessori Teacher, Expert (+4) Practical, Good (+2) Crafts, Good (+2) Stamina, Good (+2) Teamwork
Poor (-2) Doesn't Know When to Quit

Raylon Verdereau -- He has cafe-au-lait skin, hazel eyes, and long brown hair with loose nap. He is the son of Jolie Verdereau and older brother of Cary (2). Currently Raylon is 4 years old. He lives in Easy City and attends a Montessori school in the neighborhood of Saint Henriette Delille Hospital. Raylon likes teasing people, but hasn't yet figured out the distinction between teasing that is funny and teasing that hurts people's feelings.
Qualities: Good (+2) Alert, Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Energetic
Poor (-2) Likes to Tease People

Eugenie Verdereau -- She has mahogany skin, brown eyes, and long nappy hair of chocolate brown. She is the daughter of Arlene Verdereau, younger sisters of Beaux (9), older sister of Leshaun (5) and Malinda (3). Currently Eugenie is 6 years old. She lives in Easy City and attends a Montessori school in the neighborhood of Saint Henriette Delille Hospital.
Qualities: Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Solemn, Good (+2) Student
Poor (-2) Hates Being Teased

Leshaun Verdereau -- He has mahogany skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair buzzed very short. He is the son of Arlene Verdereau, younger brother of Beaux (9), Eugenie (6), and older brother of Malinda (3). Currently Leshaun is 5 years old. He lives in Easy City and attends a Montessori school in the neighborhood of Saint Henriette Delille Hospital.
Qualities: Good (+2) Curious, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Paying Attention to People
Poor (-2) Low Tolerance for Boredom

Lysiane Ozenne -- She has fair skin, blue eyes, and straight blonde hair past her shoulders. She teaches at the Montessori school in the St. Henriette neighborhood of Easy City. Lysiane can't have children of her own, and desperately wants some. So she works with children instead, but it's still a sore spot for her.
Qualities: Master (+6) Child Psychology, Expert (+4) Preschool Montessori Teacher, Good (+2) Energetic, Good (+2) Helping People, Good (+2) Observant
Poor (-2) Infertile

Elias Lindquist -- He has pinkish-fair skin, blue eyes, and white-blond hair with just a little wave that hangs to his chin. He is the older twin brother of Elsa. They were abused by their birth parents, which included throwing Elias into a wall during potty training. That and poor medical care have left him mostly deaf in the left ear and partially deaf in the right. He is now learning sign language. The twins have since been placed in foster care and then adopted by their foster family.
Qualities: Good (+2) Concentration, Good (+2) Kinesthetic Intelligence
Poor (-2) Impaired Hearing

Elsa Lindquist -- She has pinkish-fair skin, blue eyes, and straight white-blonde hair just past her shoulders. She is the younger twin sister of Elias. They were abused by their birth parents, which included throwing Elias into a wall during potty training. The twins have since been placed in foster care and then adopted by their foster family. Elsa is very protective of her brother due to his hearing loss. She wants to become a sign language interpreter when she grows up.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Linguistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Loyalty
Poor (-2) Ignoring Injustice

Julio Gaspar -- He has light brown skin, brown eyes, and straight black hair. He attends the Montessori school in the St. Henriette neighborhood of Easy City. Recently his grandfather passed away, leaving Julio sad and withdrawn.
Qualities: Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Quiet
Poor (-2) Misses His Grandfather

Beaux Verdereau -- He has mahogancy skin, brown eyes, and short nappy black hair. He is the son of Arlene Verdereau, older brother of Eugenie (6), Leshaun (5), and Malinda (3). Currently Beaux is 9 years old. He lives in Easy City and attends a Montessori school in the neighborhood of Saint Henriette Delille Hospital.
Qualities: Good (+2) Helpful, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Reading, Good (+2) Teaching
Poor (-2) Nearsighted

Gajara Bachchan -- She has tinted skin, brown eyes, and short black hair with two deep blue streaks. She has two children, a daughter (5) and a son (3). Gajara is a country girl at heart, but her husband is a surgeon who needs to live in the city. She has compensated by finding a neighborhood with lots of green space, but it's still a struggle for her.
Origin: She developed superpowers when her children were born; the first blue streak came from her daughter and the second from her son.
Uniform: As a primary teacher, Gajara favors comfortable, durable clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Encouraging People, Good (+2) Gardener, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Primary Montessori Teacher
Poor (-2) City Life Is Hard
Powers: Average (0) Blue Hair
She has the ultraviolet vision that crayon soups sometimes have, along with a sensitivity to other people with superpowers. While she can't tell what they can do, she can usually clock soups.
Motivation: To inspire her students.

Fergal Redmond -- He has ruddy skin, sherry-brown eyes, and wavy auburn hair with a mustache and beard. He wears glasses. Fergal has a daughter, Teagan (13). He works at the Montessori school in the St. Henriette neighborhood of Easy City. In addition to using science at work, he's also a fan of kitchen chemistry, using things like blow torches and liquid nitrogen for stunt cooking. However, Fergal thinks with his logic and does poorly with anything which requires intuition.
Qualities: Master (+6) Science, Expert (+4) Elementary Montessori Teacher, Good (+2) Family Man, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Stunt Cooking
Poor (-2) Intuition

Teagan Redmond -- She has pale skin which sunburns easily, blue eyes, and long straight red hair with a hint of wave. She is currently thirteen. She attends the Montessori school in the St. Henriette neighborhood of Easy City, where her father Fergal teaches.
Qualities: Good (+2) Green Thumb, Good (+2) Limber, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Tolerant
Poor (-2) Natural Redhead: Do Not Expose to Direct Sunlight

Lanfen Ruan -- She has golden skin, brown eyes, and wavy dark brown hair to her chin. She is the grandmother of Cheng Ruan. Lanfen works in the nursery at the Montessori school in the St. Henriette neighborhood of Easy City.
Qualities: Master (+6) Nurturing, Expert (+4) Grandmother, Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Infant Montessori Teacher, Good (+2) Intuition
Poor (-2) Never Gets Enough Sleep

Cheng Ruan -- He has tawny-fair skin, brown eyes, and wavy black hair. He is the grandson of Lanfen Ruan. Cheng attends the Montessori school in the St. Henriette neighborhood of Easy City.
Qualities: Good (+2) Extrovert
Poor (-2) Demands Constant Attention

Read about high-need babies and their features.

* * *

“The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.”
-- Maria Montessori

Family roles evolve through mutual interaction.  The level of involvement between aunt and niece is voluntary and flexible, a good match for Saraphina's relationship with Arlene.

St. Henriette Delille Hospital in Easy City is the primary anchor of a planned neighborhood.  This map is an approximation.  Healthcare 1 and Healthcare 2 are the halves of St. Henriette's, connected by a skybridge.  Two healing gardens appear above.  To the right is a sand filtration cell, which in Easy City is still active via Elemental Powers.  The North Service Court is just below.  Multifamily housing connects with Healthcare 3, which is an outbuilding of St. Henriette's that offers a variety of smaller offices including mental health, vision, and dental care.  Across the street on the right is a grocery store and multifamily residence.  Below that are the townhouses.  Then comes the South Service Court.  At the bottom is a Community Center and a large park.  Living space goes first to hospital, retail, and other staff working in the neighborhood, and if there is space left over, other people may move in.  Conversely, jobs are advertised first within the neighborhood, and if no residents fill the position, are opened to outsiders.  This gives people two ways to enter the neighborhood, through housing or through employment.

Here is an exterior view of the multipurpose building which houses the grocery store, a restaurant and a bank, apartments, and the Montessori school.

The first floor is commercial space.  The large showroom holds the grocery store.  In the middle of the map, just to the left of the lift in the lobby, that inside corner has private booths with lightboxes to serve as a quiet space.

The Montessori School on the seventh floor spans infant daycare through high school, divided by broad age groups instead of single years.  The younger children customarily occupy the blue classrooms on the right side of the map.  The tan future phase rooms are mostly classrooms and offices, devoted to the older children.  The art room, music room, and multi-use areas are shared.  The space marked "open to below" is the nursery.  The "roof" area is part of the core elevator lobby and includes open space for lounging or studying.  In nice weather, students have recess on the green roof.

This is the open part of the lobby around the elevators where it says "Roof" on the map, including the reception desk.  That large reef tank toward the left side is maintained by the older students.

The educational part of the lobby is the green space marked Lobby on the map.  It features many displays about Montessori education and child development, along with a few tables and chairs for people to relax or play.  This is a popular place for parents of prospective students to talk with staff or students, because the materials offer lots of inspiration for questions.

This is the conference room in the administrative wing.

The multipurpose room is in the bottom middle.  It includes open floor space, gym equipment, and other resources.

The café and gift shop is near the multipurpose room.  It has an adult supervisor but is operated largely by the older students.  Most of the items served or sold here were made in the school by students and/or teachers.  The café maintains a giant pot or two of food and a beverage station during school hours.  Most students either bring their lunches or eat out; there is a restaurant on the second floor opposite the bank.  Some classes prepare food in kitchenette areas, and the café also sells a selection of items.  Since there is no single lunch hour, it doesn't get unbearably crowded.

The large boys' room and girls' room also have facilities for users of different heights.

The middle school classroom is the tan room under the art room.  The middle school breakout area is largely lined with books.

The practical life room has a kitchenette.  This is where Montessori students learn basic skills such as cooking and leaning which promote independence, helpfulness, and understanding of logical steps.

The small tan room under the practical life room is the quiet room for older students and adults.

The library lies to the right of the quiet study room.

The high school room is in the upper left of the map, called the Green Room because most of its walls are painted green.

The music room is in the upper middle of the map.  From this angle you can see the bank of viewscreens which display classroom video feeds, so that parents can watch their children without disturbing a class.

This is part of the wide corridor that connects the classrooms and other function spaces.  While it's mostly open space with the clean lines of Montessori decoration, they do have some educational wall art plus a scatter of desks, tables, chairs, and other resources for work or rest.

The upper elementary classroom lies between the infant room and the music room.  This is the elementary breakout room.

The larger art room in the middle of the map is used mainly by older students.

The dottie in the adolescent wing has an accessible shower.

The nursery features cribs, open play space, and a toddler corner.

The Wood Room is the lower blue room on the right side of the map. It is used most often by primary school children, sometimes by toddlers. It has cubbies for children to put away personal items.  The breakout room for the Wood Room is decorated with colorful seating, often used for small group lessons that benefit from a quieter, enclosed space.

Montessori schools feature student-directed learning in a beautiful, functional environment.

Waldorf schools have a different philosophy but also have a very creative approach.

Summerhill School is a community-oriented type of education.

Potty learning (as opposed to "training") often entails learning from observation.  Here are some tips.

See the gorgeous play kitchen.

Clothing cards can be used in many activities.

Anmwe! -- Help!
-- Haitian Kreyol Dictionary

fini -- to finish
-- Haitian Kreyol Dictionary

Montessori materials are beautiful, durable objects designed to teach important concepts.  Many are made from hardwood. People usually buy them; they are expensive but excellent quality.  Some people wish to make their own; it's not hard, but finding instructions often is.  Aidan can look at anything wooden, run his hands over it, and copy it in his workshop with good or better results.

This toddler toy is a wooden box with many different doors and latches.

A worksheet with an unlabled set of smiley scales can be used to measure all kinds of things.

Here are some social and emotional milestones to watch for in child development.

Trauma causes different symptoms at different ages.

This is a basic assessment of mental status.  While a precise assessment takes time and focus, relaxed observations can be very useful -- especially with young children, who are not receptive to the kind of detailed testing that older people may tolerate.

Attachment styles show first in child and caregiver behavior, and then in adult relationships. A healthy relationship creates a circle of security.  Aidan and Saraphina are actually doing a great job of compensating for her tragic past.

See the ASL sign for "friend."  Explore some ASL printables such as sign language numbers 1-5. Montessori schools often teach alternative communication modes such as ASL or Braille.

Attention span grows with age.  A typical toddler's attention span is only a few minutes.  Work with that, because trying to stretch it longer just makes everyone miserable.

First aid lessons at age-appropriate levels teach basic skills.  Early on, skin tone issues with medical supplies simply didn't matter to the people who made the materials.  Now, L-America offers several different shades of bandaids and bandage tape for skin in shades of brown.  T-America does much better.  Most skin products come in at least five tones; the basic set is often listed as pale, fair, medium, dark, deep.  Better products such as the Sunspotz solar alert stickers come in ten: alabaster, bisque, peach, amber, buff, olive, toffee, terra cotta, mahogany, and ebony.  A family may only stock their own preference, but almost all schools, first aid stations, etc. will have a range of skin tones, clear, rainbow colors, cartoons, and EFAids.

Montessori play groups are a little less formal than schools and typically focus on infants to toddlers.

Louisiana fruit trees include a variety of cultivars.  Some can be grown in containers.

Montessori often teaches garden lessons.  Children do well with container gardens and fast-growing plants.

Nap mats provide a comfortable place for children to sleep.

Baby mirrors provide visual stimulation for infants.

Tags: community, cyberfunded creativity, education, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, writing

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