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“When [my kindergartners] left me, they left me with the most wonderful memories and the imprints of their kisses upon my heart. To me, the blessed little events, the tiny magical moments, and the wonderful quick coincidences were like kisses.” —From the Introduction
A former kindergarten teacher, Christine Pisera Naman watched over many classes of five-year-olds as they made their way through the school year and discovered new things about themselves and the world around them. In Caterpillar Kisses, she turns her observations and insights into twelve delightful real-life vignettes, one for each month of the year.
The stories bring to life events, large and small, that help these wiggly, unsure caterpillars grow into beautiful and confident butterflies. From a first trip to the zoo to making angels in the snow, the kids embrace every new experience with all the silliness, enthusiasm, and wonder familiar to anyone who has spent time with a five-year-old. Naman explores the more difficult moments of childhood as well, offering sensitive, reassuring stories about the fear of thunderstorms and encountering death for the first time. Life lessons are tucked within everyday activities, including a hilarious session of learning (literally) how to walk in the other guy’s shoes and another emphasizing the importance of making others feel accepted. But the students are not the only ones undergoing change. During the course of the year, their teacher learns the best way to deal with too many “apples for the teacher” and comes to understand the true meaning of spirituality and the simple joy of dancing in the rain.
Alternately laugh-out-loud funny and poignant, Caterpillar Kisses illustrates the good things that come from looking at life through the eyes of children. It is perfect for anyone looking for the magic in everyday life.
“Luminous! Sometimes, when spending time with children, it is just so clear that they are our teachers. Caterpillar Kisses shows us some of the small but tender lessons we stumble upon during the metamorphosis that occurs each and every day in a young child’s life.”
—Ann S. Ruethling, founder and vice president of merchandising, Chinaberry, Inc.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
CHRISTINE PISERA NAMAN is a writer and a stay-at-home mom in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and three small children. She is the author of Faces of Hope, a book about babies born on September 11, 2001. She has written for several magazines, and is a frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The First Day of School
It was the first day of school, the first hour to be exact, and I sat at my desk in the front of the room surveying the class before me. The motley crew of five-year-olds scattered in front of me comprised this year's kindergarten class. The names and faces change from year to year. They are boys and girls, tall and short, plump and thin. They are blonde and brunette and one is always a redhead. Their hair is short and long. Their uniforms are neatly pressed and wrinkled. They come bearing everything but the kitchen sink and they come empty handed. They are always very different from, yet very similar to, last year's class. They are also very different from, yet very similar to, one another. However, although each comes in a unique outer wrapping, inside they are all five-year-olds. And I have always found five-year-olds to be a very good thing.
They sat before me, each coloring a paper caterpillar with their name printed on it. This was one of my favorite "getting to know you" activities. I have found through the years that there is nothing children enjoy more than seeing their name anywhere and everywhere. Printed big, bright, and bold. They enjoy it; they become flattered and proud. "If my name is here, I must belong," their eyes seem to say.
I studied them with interest, noting how uniquely they approached the task assigned to them. Some sat straight and tall, coloring perfectly and confidently inside the lines as if they were modeling for a Norman Rockwell painting, while others looked more like Spanky and the gang from The Little Rascals, disheveled, slouching, and wielding each crayon wildly like a sword.
I rose from my desk and walked around the room offering encouragement with positive words and gentle touches on the shoulder. "These are simply the most beautiful caterpillars I have ever seen," I gushed.
As I continued to weave in and out of the desks, a clamor from the hallway drew my attention. Another class was passing by my doorway on their way to the gym. I did a double take as I realized it was not just any class, but my kindergarten class from last year--this year's first graders. I paused and watched as they scampered by, some of them waving. They had outgrown me. My heart melted and a lump formed in my throat as I watched them. A flood of memories washed over me. How they had grown! They had stumbled in last year so young, so insecure, with wide eyes and cowering shoulders. Throughout the year they had grown and by June their eyes had become sure and their shoulders straight. As the line of children dwindled, the flood of memories dried, leaving just a drop in the corner of my eye. I sighed and wiped the tear away with a quick hand.
"Teacher?" My thoughts were interrupted. Last year disappeared.
"Teacher?" persisted a voice from a straight and tall inside-of-the-lines colorer in the front row. "If we are caterpillars now," she asked, with her blonde ponytail bobbing, "will we be butterflies when kindergarten is over?"
I smiled at her as she tilted her head to admire her perfectly crayoned caterpillar. "Yes, Julie," I said, reading her name off the page. Her eyes darted to mine at the sound of her name. She smiled and blushed, surprised that I knew it.
"Yes," I said again, smiling to myself and enjoying the thought. I savored the image in my head for a moment longer; then, as the last first grader danced by my door, I said, "Yes, I believe you will be."
And with that, I somehow had a new understanding of the work set before me for the next ten months, the work that God had sent me to do.
Nurturing wiggling little caterpillars into beautiful baby butterflies.
An Apple for the Teacher
"It's for you," she said, boldly dropping a bruised red apple onto my desk. The apple wobbled unsteadily for a few seconds, then settled on its bottom.
"Thank you," I said warmly, peering into the part of her eyes I could see. Her blonde hair hung straight, covering most of her chestnut eyes.
"Sometimes haircuts cost more than the people in this neighborhood can afford," an experienced teacher once told me.
"That was very nice of you," I said, gently smoothing the hair away from her face. "I'll enjoy it with my lunch," I promised.
She stared at me blankly, then turned on her heels and returned to her seat. Only momentarily put off by her lack of reaction, I went back to my own work. But the strange silence that fell upon the classroom distracted me. I raised my eyes to find twenty pairs of five-year-old eyes staring back at me. I had no idea what they were looking at. I looked at them. Unblinking, they looked at me.
"They're waiting for you to eat the apple," said a voice that suddenly appeared next to me. It was the voice of Mary, who taught in the classroom next to mine. She had a habit of appearing out of nowhere. She would often startle me, as she did then. I would joke with her that she was always creeping up on me. I looked at her questioningly.
"They're waiting for you to eat the apple," she explained softly. "The teacher who had this job before you never would. She looked down upon these kids and their families. She didn't understand that dirty and poor are not the same thing. These people just don't have a lot of money. But it doesn't mean that they're bad or unclean. She said she'd never eat anything that came out of their homes. The problem is, the kids knew she said it and so did their parents."
I flinched, thinking it unbelievable that someone could have actually mouthed such words. Mary looked at me with a touch of sympathy in her eyes, as if she had just told me there was no Santa Claus.
I guess she knew how naïve I was. She had been teaching in this school for twenty years. This was my first teaching job. And I came from the suburbs. What in the world did I know about the inner city?
I nodded at Mary. "Thanks," I whispered. I was truly grateful for her.
"You'll figure it out," she said, smiling faintly. That's something she said to me often. "You'll figure it out." Sometimes I knew what I was supposed to figure out. Other times I had no idea. She walked out of the room.
Twenty sets of eyes were glued upon me. For a moment, I stared back at them and then began figuring it out.
"Actually," I announced casually, checking the seating chart that lay on my desk. (Since it was still the first few days of school, I hadn't had the chance to learn all of their names yet.) "Actually, Rebecka," I said loudly, locating her name on the chart, "I don't think I can wait for lunch to eat this apple. I didn't have much of a breakfast, so I'm hungry. I hope you won't mind if I eat it now."
I picked up the apple. Overacting, I eyed it lovingly, then made a noise that telegraphed my longing.
They were mesmerized. Wide-eyed with anticipation they awaited my first bite. After one last look, I closed my eyes and sunk my teeth deep into the apple. I chewed with my eyes closed, making grand noises of pleasure. Finally, swallowing, I opened my eyes to meet theirs still staring at me.
"Delicious!" I remarked. They bought the entire act. And loved it. Relaxed now, they shifted, giggling in their seats. They smiled at me and at each other. With the crisis passed, I pressed them back on track.
"You get back to your work," I suggested, "and I'll get back to mine." And that's what we did. They resumed their coloring, only raising their heads sporadically to watch me take my bites, which I dutifully did until tossing the core into the garbage can.
"Thank you, Rebecka," I said, as it plunked into the hollow metal can. Too shy for words, she just nodded with a delicate smile on her face.
The next day I found two apples on my desk. I ate them. The following day I found three, and the next day five. Somehow, I managed to eat them all. But by the end of the week there were seven. I was now in over my head and oddly wishing that at least a couple of them were oranges. But I guess nobody ever heard of an "Orange for the Teacher," so that was unlikely. It was getting tougher. I mean I like apples, but does anyone like them enough to eat seven a day?
The funny part about this is that the kids knew their apples, so it was impossible to fool them. Every day, each student bearing an apple would find their way to my desk and present their apple. Then they would proceed to their seats and wait for me to eat it. As the morning drew on they would look back and forth from their work to me, waiting for me to choose the apple they had brought. I never even had to ask whose apple it was because as soon as I began eating it, the face of the child who had brought it would beam with pride.
After learning the hard way, and one day having to quickly gobble up three apples from 2:45 until the dismissal bell at 3:05, I learned to start early. So each day I began eating as soon as the first apple arrived. I munched through the Morning Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. I took bites during circle time and show-and-tell. I ate while doing paperwork at my desk, while teaching at the blackboard, and while offering individual help. I ate on my way to the bathroom, the library, and the cafeteria. There was no need for me to bring a lunch from home anymore. I couldn't possibly fit anything else inside my stomach.
One afternoon about two weeks after this whole thing started, I was glumly sitting at my desk gnawing on my third apple when Mary appeared.
"Hi," she said with a smirk. She had been enjoying my predicament.
"Hi," I answered back, trying to ignore her amusement.
"I just came by to see how your first month is going."
"Okay," I admitted, swallowing the last bite of the apple and tossing the core into the wastepaper basket on top of two others. "All except," I stopped short, not positive I wanted to be that honest and not wanting to set myself up for more ribbing.
I looked at her. Her eyes were dancing.
"The apples," we finished together. Unable to control herself, Mary laughed heartily.
"Well, I guess if that's your biggest problem," she chuckled, wiping tears of laughter out of her eyes as she walked out of the room, "you don't have a problem at all." I wasn't sure that I agreed with her. "You'll figure it out," she assured me from halfway down the hall. Again, I wasn't sure I agreed with her.
It had gotten to the point where I would dread seeing them coming. As the school buses pulled up to the curb in the morning, I would look down from the second story window trying to spy how many of them were toting apples. Sometimes I could spot them right away clutching them in their hands as they hopped off the school bus. Often they would lose their grip and have to chase after an apple that was threatening to escape down the steep city street. Admittedly, I found myself wishing that apple "Godspeed," but my prayers always remained unanswered as those energetic five-year-old legs caught up with it.
Some days I was relieved, having only counted a couple of apples from the window. But I became instantly disappointed when the number of apples had greatly increased by the time the children reached the classroom, finding their way out of coat pockets and book bags.
Finally the breaking point came. It was a Tuesday morning. I had left my desk for only a moment to call on another teacher. When I left the room there were four apples; by the time I returned there were eleven. I just couldn't do it. And in spite of myself, I blurted out, "I just can't do it!" Startled, the children stared wide eyed at me from their seats. Realizing that that must have sounded much too harsh, I softened it.
"I'm sorry," I said weakly. "There are just too many of them. It's really so nice of all of you to bring me these apples. Really, it is. It's just that there are too many for one person to eat." They looked squarely back at me. Some of them looked angry; some of them looked crushed. Not one of them looked as though they understood. No matter what I had said, it was the wrong thing. The looks on their faces were unbearable to me. If I could have taken it all back and gobbled up all eleven of the apples, I would have done it in an instant. My mind raced, scrambling for a way to save this. Then I had an idea.
"There are just too many for one person to eat here at school," I clarified. "So I won't be able to eat all of them right now." I tested my words. "So I'll probably just be able to eat a couple."
"Which couple?" came a gruff voice from the back. It held a very wary tone.
"Yeah, which couple?" came a softer but no less accusing voice from the front.
"Well," I stalled, realizing I had stepped onto a land mine. "Well, that's the thing--I couldn't possibly choose between them," I said, beginning to recover. "Sooo, since they all look so good, I've decided to take one bite from each here at school, and then I'll take the rest of each apple home for later." I took a deep breath. Even though it was only a second, waiting for their reaction seemed endless.
Finally, someone said: "Ohhh, I get it, that's a good idea!"
"Yeah," someone else said.
"I get it, too," the rest chimed in.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief. They were satisfied. I was somewhat off the hook. All I had to do was take one bite from each, which I promptly did. No matter how many apples they showed up with in one day, I knew I could handle it now.
It was a solution. If only partly. It didn't solve the problem, but I figured it bought me time if nothing else, until I figured out the rest. I prayed for help.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Doubleday Religion, 2005. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0385513879 . Seller Inventory # Z0385513879ZN
Book Description Doubleday Religion, 2005. Hardcover. Condition: New. This Book is in Fresh, Beautiful and Brand new condition!!. Seller Inventory # SKU1052316
Book Description Doubleday Religion, 2005. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # 190301069
Book Description Doubleday Religion, 2005. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0385513879
Book Description Doubleday Religion, 2005. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0385513879
Book Description Condition: New. New. Seller Inventory # M-0385513879