One winter day while spending time with a friend’s two preschool-age daughters, we decided it was time for fresh air. Outdoors in Ontario in January typically means snowsuits—at least for the younger set. Five-year-old Tricia, independent since birth, insisted on dressing herself. Tracy, three, was more willing to accept assistance. I tried to insert Tracy into snowsuit from a standing position. But after a few unsuccessful attempts at balancing her on one wee foot, while aiming the other at a leg hole, we opted for another configuration. Unzipping her sleeping-bag-with-limbs, I laid the garment on the floor. Next I positioned Tracy on top of the slippery pink fabric and tried to coax arms and legs into their respective tubes. After several minutes of more struggle than success, Tracy decided to verify my credentials. With a dubious look, she peered up from the floor at her child-free caretaker and inquired, “You don’t do this much, do you?”
Busted. By a three-year-old.
Perhaps it was a search for similar surprises that led me recently to a classroom filled with three-year-olds. I had heard that the pre-kindergarten division at Pioneer Memorial Church needed a pianist. I had been feeling guilty about letting my years of music lessons go to waste. If I played for Sabbath School, I reasoned, at least I would have the incentive to practice on my own Baldwin upright occasionally. And besides, the little people would be a pleasant change from the eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds who occupied most of my waking moments as a university professor.
Several Sabbaths later, I found myself perched on a piano bench, surrounded by thirty exquisitely dressed, knee-high worshipers. I looked around and listened while Teacher Julie led out in a nature lesson. “What do flowers need to help them grow?” she asked.
“Water!” shouted Joanna.
“Exactly,” Julie affirmed. “And what else do they need?”
“Sunshine!” Lincoln chimed in.
“Right you are. And what else do flowers need?” As Julie scanned the room for knowing faces, I flipped the pages of my music binder to the next action song. No more answers were forthcoming, so Julie opted for a recap. “Flowers need water. And flowers need sunshine. Flowers also need dirt and something else. Now,” Julie prompted, “who can tell me one more thing that flowers need to help them grow?”
“Other flowers!” Thomas boomed with conviction.
So much for our scripted segue into “Wiggly, Wiggly Worm.”
Thomas has since graduated from our Sabbath school room, but I try to carry his impromptu testimony into work with me each morning. On days that threaten to be particularly hectic, I think back to Thomas’s words and some of those Sabbath School felts—the ones with faces surrounded by petals. I remind myself that I do indeed need other flowers to keep me fertilized, to forestall withering, to keep me blooming, to help me grow.
I need Ivan Ivy Davis and his pristine office to remind me that a well-ordered space can do wonders to calm the spirit. I need Bruce Crocus Closser and strains of Chanticleer to remind me that just about everything goes better with well-chosen tunes. I need Monique Periwinkle Pittman and her offered cup of English Breakfast brew to remind me that nothing soothes like tea and civility.
And when I step into the classroom, I need Jonquil Jennifer Jakobsons’s wholesome beauty to remind me that time invested in the health club does indeed pay off. I need Aster Anna Park’s quiet demeanor to remind me that not every task needs a voice-over, that much good can be accomplished quietly. And I even need “Daffy-dill” Daniel Bedell’s sarcastic quips to remind me that a raucous round of laughter is sometimes needed more than a session of correcting comma splices.
Yes, I need other flowers to help me grow. And I can’t imagine any other plot of ground where I’d rather break into blossom. Praise be to our pioneers, many of them farmers, for selecting and sowing this campus. Praise be to chairpersons Douglas Dahlia Jones and Luanne Lavender Bauer for transplanting Beverly Begonia Matiko sixteen years ago. And praise be to J. (Jack-in-the Pulpit?) N. (Nasturtium?) Andrews for supplying the genus and genius loci of this vibrant garden.
~ Beverly Matiko
Associate Professor, English and Communication