One year, in Bermuda, I was supply teaching
An Infants' Class, four and five-year-olds
Bright, eager, trusting children.
Christmas was just two weeks away.
We were having an 'Art Activity'
Tearing, cutting, biting paper to bits
To make a personal collage of 'Christmas'
On the general idea:
'How does Christmas make you FEEL - in COLOUR!'
It was a bold undertaking, and they loved it.
We chatted a bit about the project -
The effect of colour on people.
Why we might like or dislike certain colours.
They were very forth-coming, and knowledgable.
I didn't 'push it' too hard.
More a suggestion to encourage 'thinking':
Would any child choose to follow an 'idea'?
Most kids wanted red and green paper
Because it was a 'Christmas poster'
And that was that! End of story!'
Which was fine, their choice.
'Red and green are traditional to northern countries.' I said.
'The date chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus
Fell in their wintertime.
People decorated with what they had to hand.
And that became 'the custom' all over the world.'
(There was more to 'red and green' than that, of course,
But not for young minds that day.)
I pointed out how beautiful our own island flowers were
At this time of year – our Bermuda Christmas season.
'Bushes and trees and gardens are full of rainbow flowers
Cascading into walkways and roadsides
Almost into your house!'
And they giggled, because it was true.
'Would anyone consider a Christmas collage
Of beautiful Bermuda colours?'
(A variation on the theme, but so what?
We had nudged the 'collective mind' ajar.)
The children responded with great enthusiasm,
Quite taken with this new idea.
I moved about the room, chatting and helping.
Suddenly, over the buzz of activity, I realized,
'Someone is sobbing!'
Huge, gutsy, despairing tears.
I leaned over the young lad
With his head buried in his arms
To ask him, as privately as possible,
He raised his flooding eyes,
'My daddy says I'm not allowed to like pink
Because I'm a boy!'
I felt 'hit by a fist'
Square between the eyes.
What to say? WHAT TO SAY!
It was a personal, terrible moment.
Homosexuality in my community
Was still very divisive.
And potentially dangerous
To myself, my family, my home.
Any response was fraught with peril.
My mind was working like a computer.
I don't remember what I did say
Because I was actually afraid.
But the child smiled through his tears
And went back to cutting and sticking
Did the boy use pink?
I don't know.
I had to concentrate on the whole task at hand
All the children, not just one.
So I don't recall.
But, only too clearly, I remember the Fear
That fell across my words.
And I'm not alone, am I?
Cynthia Buell Thomas, May, 2019