The Visitation of Humble Abodes
Growing up in Bristol my family never locked our car. There was no need.
And we rarely ever locked our house, either. Again, no need. We knew all our neighbors so very well - and we had no fear of being harmed by any of them. We cared about them and they cared about us.
I’m convinced that neighbors would care just as much about each other today IF they only visited each other in person. No, all those electronic texts and Facebook “visits” don’t count. They aren’t “real life” face-to-face visits.
I was fortunate to visit the homes of practically every student I ever taught. I managed to do this for many years. But when I began to teach well over one-hundred kids a year for several years running I began to miss a few now and then. It is a fact for which I to this day remain remorseful.
These just-drop-by, friendly home visits were always positive. I made sure never to enter a family’s humble abode with the sole purpose of “telling” on a child for something “bad” they’d done. On the contrary, I came eager to share with the entire household about all the “good” things I’d learned about their child (some of which the family may not have even themselves yet recognized).
Over the years, I’ve been graciously welcomed into the homes of “princes and paupers” alike, so to speak.
Now we all know that some students never do their homework. Ever. Believe me, as a teacher I think I heard every excuse in the world; perhaps my favorite being a written note from a mother that declared that God had personally told them all to go to the beach instead of worrying about homework. Now how was I going to argue with God? (Although I would much prefer to argue with God than I would that mother.)
However, while on my many home visits, I did come across some perfectly reasonable reasons why some children never had their homework. (Indeed, one can often learn more about a child from one brief home visit than one can learn all year observing that child in the classroom only.)
As I entered the front door of one humble abode of a student I taught, I nearly tripped over what I thought might be a dead body laying just inside the doorway on the living room floor. I was horrified. The mother of the home and her son, who had both answered my knock at the door, each dexterously stepped over the body on their way toward the kitchen. Mom motioned for me to follow.
I still stood frozen at the doorway.
Then Mom yelled back at me, “It don’t matter if you tromp on Clyde on your way. He came in dead drunk again last night and passed out in his favorite place.” Then she mumbled, “Best he don’t wake up anyhow. He ain’t never got nothin’ good to say about our boy. Mr. Talley, how about you? You come here to tell me how bad my boy is, too?”
I took off my ever-present hat, looked her in the eyes, and said, “No, mam. I have nothing but good to say about your boy. May I stay a couple of minutes and tell you about the good things I’ve seen him do in school.”
Her mouth flew open to nearly match the width of mine upon my entry to her home. Her hard eyes softened. Her previously raucous voice lowered almost to a whisper. “Ain’t nobody ever says nothin’ good about my boy - especially from school.” Then she hugged me and cordially invited me to stay - for fried baloney sandwiches.
I graciously accepted her offer, sitting down at the kitchen table to watch Mom fry baloney in a big iron skillet. This lady fried baloney and swatted flies with equal aplomb (I even nailed one of the flies with my hat) - all while she eagerly listened to me tell her good things about her beloved son.
Just before she laid out the first “batch” of baloney on the table, her drunken husband began to stir from his stupor. No longer had he sat up in the floor than I heard the horrible thud of a frying pan hitting a human head. Indeed, this lady could truly multi-task quite well. She served me stale bread and fried baloney (along with possibly a fly or two) all while promptly returning her husband to his previously unconscious state on the floor.
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