The children huddle around Georgette,
pressing against her
like violets burrowing under moss.
Eleven little ones.
Jackie says, “I’m cold,” and Caroline, “It’s horrible here.”
What is ugly is their temporary housing being torn down
one dwelling after another.
From the bottom of their hearts, the children hate this place.
They’ve always been cold here, it’s always been dirty.
Even the few flowers families have planted seem forlorn.
But today it’s worse than ever.
In the place of each demolished home, its outline still visible,
is an empty space with
a heap of rubbish, rotting boards,
and rusty, twisted metal.
The children are afraid of this world.
No wonder they hate it!
Thankfully, they have Mum and Dad, their brothers and sisters,
even if at times it seems hard to love them.
Luckily, there are the pets,
the cats and dogs they are fond of, however scrawny.
And thankfully, they have Georgette.
In this strange world, amidst all this disarray,
Georgette has kept the nursery school open,
forever striving to do better.
Every morning, she goes from home to home,
skirting the rubbish and the rubble
that’s taking on an air of permanence.
She picks up every child at their home,
And waits for each one to get ready,
if needed helping their mother dress them.
She consoles little Rosita who’s fearful of leaving home,
terrified of so much destruction
that she knows is dangerous.
A heavy board fell on her little brother’s foot,
and he’s confined to bed.
all eleven children
must be there, every day.
She won’t see a single one of them left out.
She will not have them live such misery tomorrow
as they are living today.
Georgette often says,
“All this chaos mustn’t dull their minds.
They must keep getting together.
This reassures them.
This children’s space has to be beautiful,
more beautiful than ever, and properly heated.”
But it’s not easy.
This week, the shack adjoining the children’s nursery was demolished
and in the nursery some of the plaster has fallen away.
She says, “The children should have more nourishing snacks.
We cannot let them be traumatised by the destruction of their world”.
She can be seen walking through the housing scheme
they have been demolishing for months now.
Surrounded by the little children, Georgette seems even taller
as they walk together
down neighbouring streets
where nothing has changed.
Where trees grow tall and healthy,
and where the flowers continue to bloom.
At year’s end, Georgette has met the challenge.
Despite the bulldozers, despite the demolition, despite the fear,
tests show that not a single child
has failed to develop their intelligence.
And those old enough are enrolled in pre-school.
Will these children ever remember Georgette?
Will they look back on the imagination,
tenderness and courage she has summoned
to keep them above the chaos surrounding them?
They may forget her,
but such love is never in vain.
Soon, they’ll be men and women,
and if ever they run into her again,
they might say,
“She’s the woman who got us to love school.”
All this because someone went beyond their disgust and fear,
fired by their sense of outrage and revolt…
to love even more.