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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ramon's Rapture

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"Praising Prairie Dogs" by Anthony Falbo
used with permission of the artist


Squeals and laughter bounce on the air between the school and the schoolyard's bordering maples. Mr. M. presides over afternoon recess. His fourth graders dangle from monkey bars, swing on canvas swings, huddle in gossipy conversations, or play tag. Some kids in this grade are feeling the first tugs of the exhilarating and mysterious upswing of puberty. One of them, Ramon, stands by Mr. M., watching his classmates. He happens to be OCD, perhaps slightly autistic, and is loved by everyone in the class including Mr. M for his sweet, funloving nature. For example, he does not allow Mr. M.'s desk to remain chaotic, as it is wont to do on its own, and he teases Mr. M. with mock sternness when it begins to pile up with unfiled papers and miscellany. Then he proceeds to tidy it up, promising not to throw anything away.

Girls are running around the big fourth grade teacher and the tall fourth grade boy, playing tag, especially targeting the boys. Occasionally Ramon takes refuge from tag, of which he is usually the center. Sometimes he needs to escape that decisive touch. Sometimes he wants to be caught. At this moment, he stands by his teacher, "safe" from the maelstrom of arms, legs and whoops. A few girls break from tag to catch a breath and come up to discuss something serious with Mr. M. — a minor dispute needs settling. Ramon stands close behind them listening, his eyes closed, face slightly tilted toward the sky. Then off the girls run, captivated by the next chase.

As soon as the girls are clear Ramon says with his eyes still closed, "Mr. M., did you smell their hair?"

Mr. M. replies, "No, did it smell bad?"

Ramon moans out his answer, "Ohhhhhh" and hugs himself, swaying, his face upswung.
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45 comments:

erin said...

oh, can i please hug you?

xo
erin

Brendan said...

Leave it to the Beaver! When I was probably 3 years old, a cleaning woman in our house in Pittsburgh (where my father had one of his first churches), used to cry out, "Pretty girls passing by!" And I would waken with a startle from whatever nook of the house I was playing and run in red streak to catch the sight in the bay window of our living room of two or three little girls walking by on the sidewalk outside -- always walking away. Ohhhhhhh. My maid knew how automatic my response would be. And since departure has felt like presence. Rapture can come in reverse. Sweet, sweet tale. - Brendan

Shari Sunday said...

I was confused for a moment until I saw the labels. Don was the teacher. Interesting character study and a little worrisome. Can't help but worry about that young man and hope all goes well for him though the transition to manhood. I have a grandson at that stage now and it is touching to watch him move back and forth from a sweet little boy to a moody preteen.

California Girl said...

Ruth, the pastel of the gophers is fantastic. I love love love it. Is this a local artist. What an imagination and great execution.

Miss Jane said...

Ginger Tea, then. Ah, that heady aroma of hair. Thanks for this moment.

steven said...

i love the unfiltered straight in straight out expressiveness of my autistic students who sing and dance and tell the world as it truly is so much better than those who learn about it. steven

hedgewitch said...

I've never seen such happy prairie dogs. The ability to be lost in sensation, overwhelmed yet also appreciative, is truly a gateway to another place, where we both escape and are held captive. But the underlying joy in this example leaves more of a cleansing feeling of balance, for some reason. Perhaps some things *should* reverentially overwhelm us.

annell said...

I love prairie dogs! They always remind me of Charlie Macarthy, they way they stand and look around.

Louise Gallagher said...

Love the prairie dogs -- fabulous image!

Your story is sweet and touching and so gentle I can feel the whisper of a prairie breeze flowing through my hair in its telling.

Nice.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

"Ohhhhhhhhh"... I think we all just got tagged by a touch of
Ramon's rapture.

Maureen said...

Wonderfully told story, Ruth. If only we all might be so captivated by the moments we have.

Falbo's image is marvelous.

rosaria said...

Oh yes! The rapture of sensations! More, please!

Nelson said...

I can hear Don saying "No, did it smell baaaad?" in his uncanny way of turning the tables on a young questioner....great story!

I'll never forget my only sights of erect prairie dogs, watching them from the windows of the California Zephyr as we whizzed by. Wonderful image here!

Margaret said...

Alan Menken just spoke and then sang a twenty miinute medley at Will's senior high school graduation. The emotions were quite amazing and I cried and laughed alternatively within seconds of each other. The emotions were flittering about me and I had no control over my joy and saddness. I had to live this moment. Your story resounds with this same vibe. At least to me! Have a wonderful memorial weekend. (Menken wrote/writes all the Disney songs...Will grew up with these songs and they hold so many memories...). And the prairie dogs look like the high school graduates did when they were done! :)

Barb said...

I can picture this scene, Ruth - it's Mr M's reward for being a teacher.

ellen abbott said...

would that we all were more like Ramon.

Dan Gurney said...

Wonderful story, Ruth. School days are chock-a-block full of moments like this, one after the next after the next. It can be like walking in another more magical world, full of mystery, possibility, and wonder. Thanks for sharing!

Ruth said...

Erin, yes please.

Ruth said...

Brendan, and so the search began, eh?

Yesterday I was at a spring cleaning work day at our family cottage. In the afternoon the little ones, ages 3-12 or so, watched "Tangled" — the Disney movie about Rapunzel. It's pretty good actually, what I caught of it between tasks. When Flynn Rider and Rapunzel finally kiss (sorry to spoil it), the three boys involuntarily covered their eyes and groaned "Uuuuuhhh" — with disgust. Somehow I think you would not have been chiming with them in that anti-chorus.

Ruth said...

Shari, yes, sexual awakening is mysteriously powerful. From what Don tells me, I'm quite confident that Ramon's loving, doting parents and grandparents are touched watching his transformation, much as you are by your grandson's.

Ruth said...

California Girl, yes Anthony Falbo was born and and raised in Flint, MI, though I didn't know that when I found this painting. I think I searched google images with "rapture" and came to this. Apparently the painting has had quite the run on the Internet and has come to be known in popular jargon as "Prairie Dog Rapture." I was happy that after I posted it and emailed the artist he granted permission to leave it here. Nice fellow.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Miss Jane! Did you want garlic and lemon in your tea? I have mine with the juice of a whole lemon, sliced ginger, a clove of garlic halved, a dried red pepper and honey. It's great for colds.

Ruth said...

Steven, in my limited encounters with autistic children, what you say rings true. They feel it too intensely at times, and that must be so difficult.

Jeanie said...

Oh, Ruth, I think you are indeed lucky to be married to Mr. M. and have him come home with stories like this -- so genuine and touching. Ramon is a lucky boy to have a Mr. M. That sweet, open innocence and sense of discovery -- I'm not sure how this story could be told more beautifully.

cathyswatercolors said...

The secret life of prarie dogs and 4th graders. There are times when i feel great pleasure witnessing this dance on a daily basis. I suppose that's why i'm not a file clerk... hope this makes sense. I love the story, it brought me back to Wind in the Willows.

Ruth said...

Hedgewitch, I'm glad you feel that balance here, the cleansing feeling of it, for I do too. It calls to everything that is in me that rises up in joy, in beauty, in freedom. I know there is also fear in us [culturally] that somehow unhindered pleasure will result in loss of control in a bad way. But to stand in this simple story, not in the future of what may be, but just in this momentary bliss, is a taste of what paradise could be without fear.

Ruth said...

Annell, what a connection!

Ruth said...

Thanks, Louise! Isn't the painting by Falbo just the best? It makes me supremely happy.

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, and now you're It! :-)

Ruth said...

Maureen, that's just it, being lost and caught by the moments we have. I'm glad you love this painting too!

Marcie said...

This is so beautiful..so evocative. Such exquisite description of the moment!

Ruth said...

Rosaria, I'll do my best!

Ruth said...

Nelson, how you do know your BIL. :-)

I have never seen a prairie dog in the flesh, erect or otherwise, and one of these days, if we head out on the Southwest Chief, maybe we will!

Ruth said...

Margaret, that is one impressive get for a high school graduation! I just watched parts of "Tangled" yesterday while the kids were watching, and it was excellent, the music very good. I've always liked those Little Mermaid songs too. And the real life cartoon "Enchanted" was, well, enchanting. For Will who loves theater and grew up with those songs to have such a speaker must truly have been rapturous.

Arti said...

Ruth,

I'm just amazed at how your imagination can roam, boundless. In two posts back to back, you've depicted ageing wrinkles to childhood wonders. The former, I can feel it's ever so real. This one, I'm bemused from afar. But in both, your creativity and energy are what I admire. BTW, love that photo in your previous post. Did you take it?

Ginnie said...

This precious story has Don written all over it, Ruth. I love what Nelson said about his (Don's) uncanny ability to turn the tables on the questioner. Astrid is so funny: she always says never answer a question with a question. HA. Sometimes a question IS the best answer. :)

Peter said...

The beginning of an exciting phase of life, hopefully remaining, remaining…! All this seems very optimistic to me, including the painting!

Stratoz said...

smiling at Ramon's rapture and the joy of being mocked by students.

Grandmother said...

Ramon's rapturous "ohhhhhhhhh" also befits spring all around me. Sweet story and I'm with Rosaria, more please!

Oliag said...

I do believe Ramon may be a poet when he grows up! I also think that this would be the delightful start of a short story:)

ds said...

Awwwwwwwww.....

Margaret said...

I know an autistic girl quite well. And the reason I mentioned my emotions at Will's "amazing" graduation was that must be a little what it it like. To have very little control over one's reaction to the world...

Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

Is it wonderment or awe in that sweet soul? Truly a great piece, Ruth.

Loring Wirbel said...

The smart ones figure the hair smell out early. The slow ones waste time with typical male competition that wastes much of adolescence....

Susan said...

Boys! You gotta love 'em...no matter their obstacles, they're pretty much all alike.