Friday, October 30, 2009

The Dancing Gorilla

I walked into Jack's classroom this morning, to help out at his Halloween party. Playing pass the Hot Pumpkin, freeze dance, helping with juice boxes and cupcakes - it was pure Dr. mom bliss. A nice ending to a week of volunteering at fall carnivals at the school and playing stay-at-home mom.

I showed up a half hour early - one of the teachers told me the time was nine-thirty instead of ten. I got to listen to another dad, a former UCA football player, regale the room with stories of his physical injuries retained during college. He listed them proudly: torn ligaments, broken ankles, broken ribs. At the end of his story, he was asked to read a book to the kids, and I was impressed at how he captured their attention and involved them in the book. I wouldn't have guessed that this overweight, bearded father, reliving his glory days with a classroom of four-year-olds, would be able to shift focus from his own accomplishments, but he did. Most of the children sat silently, enraptured, while I chatted with the teachers. Except for mine.

The teachers laughed while we were observing them. My son and the other Jack were silent, but their constantly shifting bodies, crawling around the legs of the chairs and the table-tops, were a sight to behold. The silently migrated towards the story-teller, occasionally interrupted by the teacher. "Jack. Back in your chair. Try to sit still."

"Is he like this at home?" They asked me. I replied, "Yes, it is tough to keep him in his seat at the dinner table. He seems to have an innate drive to climb on the counter tops, often resulting in mishaps. I thought all four-year-olds were like this, but now that you mention it, Sicily wasn't. His body is in constant motion. I chalked it up to a boy thing."

"Well, there are only two, in this class of twelve. Ironically, they are both named Jack. We are usually happy with their constant motion, as long as they are working, but we try to reign them in every once in a while. We tried to call them Jack S. and Jack H., but after saying Jack S. over and over, trying to keep him still, it started to sound, well, inappropriate."

I said Jack S. to myself, over and over in my head, and understood. I laughed out loud.

"So now we say Schneider and Halloway. It works better."

I marveled that I had been in the room for twenty minutes and was able to observe Jack, without being noticed. He had looked in my direction many times, but did not really see me. It reminded me of an unknown session at a pathology conference in Vancouver, a few years ago. The academic was showing unknown slides to a large audience, and occasionally flashed a dancing gorilla on the screen. The audience was so caught up in trying to figure out the answer, that when he asked, thirty minutes into the session, how many people had observed the dancing gorilla, only a small fraction of the audience raised their hands.

How could you miss a dancing gorilla?

It just goes to show, that even as an adult, you observe what you expect to see. When a room full of pathologists are concentrating on a projected view of an unknown slide, they are working so hard to find the answer, that important observations go unnoticed. And when your mother, who is not a normal presence in your school classroom, shows up to help, you can miss her, entirely, in the context of the situation.

He finally noticed. After I finished my duties, we danced. Then he asked me to take him with me on errands. I obliged, and we mailed the Halloween cards Sicily had made the night before to Uncle Mike and Aunt Effie. The we dropped of my favorite new children's book on the planet, Neil Gaiman's Blueberry Girl (warning: it will make you cry in the middle of Barnes & Noble), on a friend who just had a baby girl's front porch. She didn't even know I was dropping it off; we haven't really kept up. But we were friends in medical school, and I still have the pillow she embroidered for my daughter when I was pregnant. I hope she doesn't miss it - the book on the front porch. I hope I don't ever miss it. The dancing gorilla.


christie said...

Poor Jack S!

The dancing gorilla reminded me of this video I showed in class last week:

Gizabeth Shyder said...

What a great video! I correctly counted the number of passes. But I did not see the moonwalking bear.