Saturday, July 15, 2017

Summer School 28: Awful Sad Wonderful Way

 As much as I didn't expect to read about the yoga frog in Marvin's Book, I also didn't expect to read about Aaron's death in Prayer of the Laughing Yoga Frog.   I knew that I started taking pictures with students around 2011 but I forgot when and why, and now it all connects together.  I can understand how much easier it was to write this as a fable, but I still cringe pretty when I read it.  Let us continue the tale, the one that is taking us from Alex and the frog to Veterans Village, homeless college students and  three Marvins. 

(From Prayer of the Laughing Yoga Frog)
Later that same week the professor returned to her office to give the last set of exams for the semester. Again she collected her exams and again she readied the lucky rocks.  But it was too early to go to class on this particular day so she stood still for a minute and looked out the window.

There he was, arriving in his special limousine.

The professor decided to go down just for once and meet him as the elevator lowered him to the ground.  Hey Alex, ready for your exam?

He nodded as best as he could but actually last week his old chair broke and now he was in this sports car of a chair that he was still figuring out and that was taking ALL of his concentration so she didn’t ask him any more questions until he hit the green button once, then once again, then pushed the circle forward and his chair moved him away from his limousine and through the glass doors into the building.

I like this one better than your other chair, she babbles at him. Before you were leaned back more, now you’re right up and down like you’re in a tight sports car. 

He pushed the red button twice, stopped his car and smiled his agreement.

The professor meant to walk Alex to their classroom to make sure that he was there to take pictures but he shrugged her off.

 I have to wait here, he said slowly, carefully chosen words forming themselves in him and then bursting out of his otherwise rigid silence. She asked if he was warm enough, if he needed anything. He turned his eyebrows down and said no. I want you to be part of this, she told him and then left him in the warm hallway surrounded by hushed packs of whispering students quizzing each other and cursing under their breath.
She went back upstairs to her office and fetched exams, the rocks and the frog.

Again the professor paraded with frog down the hall past exhausted looking exam-worn students strewn here and there like remnants of a party that died hours ago. 

A waif like girl with a cuddly animal face knit hat looked up and smiled from her spot surrounded by piles of notecards, pink green blue white.

Other students looked down and away staring at graphs and highlighted passages and printed out power point slides.

At five minutes before the time the Final Exam was supposed to begin the professor walked into the room. Several students were sitting on top of their desks in an informal circle quizzing each other.  The professor hid her pleasure at their intensity and walked silently to the front where she dropped the box of empty final exams and the Laughing Yoga Frog on a small table. 

At exactly the time the final exam was supposed to begin the professor held up the frog statue and launched into an impromptu graduation speech.
Congratulations you’ve made it to the end! Look at the empty chairs. That guy stopped coming. That girl, the one who never had a pen, she disappeared, but you guys made it to the end in one piece, and that’s something to celebrate.

The class broke up into cheers as though someone were tossing candy and free
t-shirts at them. I’m giving you a speech, I’m not cancelling your final, I need to talk to you about my frog, the professor announced and several fallen faces dropped their gazes back down into notebooks and notecards.
A few faces looked interested.
One girl with particularly tight headband winced a little.

I like frogs because they start out completely different from what they are intended to become. They have tails, right? Then they lose them and grow up. That must be traumatic. When my mom tells me “Sana, sana, culita de rana, si no sanas hoy, sanarás mañana” (heal heal little frog’s tail, if you don’t heal today you’ll heal tomorrow) I imagine this poor baby froggy looking for its tail, what it’s lost, and not at all noticing that it has arms and legs and now it can leap.   But once the frog realized it’s a new creature, strong and whole, it can do so much more and leap into a bigger world. And that’s what I wish your education will help you do.

I fell in love with this particular praying Laughing Yoga Frog the moment I saw it.
 Just look at it, doesn’t it look like something I would love?  And a week later I went back to Cracker Barrel again and I can’t believe I’m publicly admitting I went to Cracker Barrel three times in two weeks and I thought the frog was gone but it was THERE and it was 80% off.  I love it and it was meant for me and I bought it and what I want to tell you all is that the universe is always growing and ever expanding and it is full of joyful things – big and small - like this frog and I’m sure that what is meant to bring joy to you will find you.

After you each finish exam I’m going to give a lucky rock and you’re going to take a picture with me and the frog. I’d give you your lucky rocks now but some of them are so strong that they bring an unfair advantage so you’ll have to wait.
Ready for your exam?

The professor hands out empty exams full of spaces for students to explain things like The Treaty of Versailles, The Manhattan Project and The Powell Doctrine. 

After finishing her walk up and down and between the rows she turns her attention to Alex who will leave her and take his test in a lab.
Ready for your lucky rock?
He nods.
She holds up the rock-laden tray that obscured the word “Believe” etched across it right under Alex’s hand.

His rock picks him quickly but he can’t hold it in his hand.
She asks if she can put it in his slipper and he laughs YES.

The professor turned her laptop camera  and held her frog up to take a picture with the three of them. It came out well. 

They took another, then another and because Alex was just hanging out in the room until Reggie met him.

Put me on your head the frog whispered silently to the professor.

She put the frog on her head so that its lilypad looked like a 1920s hat.

Alex threw his head back and laughed the happiest laugh anyone had ever heard.  

Before the moment could pass, the professor took a picture of the three of them, Alex laughing, the frog praying, her just peeking in from the side of frame.

A minute later Reggie entered the room apologizing for being late.  That’s fine Reggie, the professor said, eliciting giggles from test takers who remembered the day she stopped lecture and asked him his name.

He told her. It was something like Eric.

She shook her head and told him she was going to call him Reggie and after that she just did and every time she did everyone giggled.  

Hold the frog and take a picture Reggie, don’t ask any questions, act like this is normal the professor commanded as she thrust the frog at Reggie.
 Reggie did exactly what she asked, which only made Alex laugh harder

After that Reggie and Alex headed out to  the testing lab, leaving the professor and her frog to finish the exam and take pictures with the rest of that class.
One by one students went off into their worlds, relieved of an exam, hopefully a little bit wiser and happier.


In the after-exam quiet the professor took her time stacking exams up and clearing off odds and ends from her desk before retreating to a long weekend of grading.

She wiped down her desk, watered her plants and placed the Laughing Yoga Frog on the windowsill right under the crystal that spun rainbows of joy across the office walls and floor for a few minutes at just the right time each day.

Looking around one last time the professor went back to reposition the frog.

Something had changed, just a little.
Your silent prayer was answered today, wasn’t it? the professor asked the praying Laughing Yoga Frog.

Was that what you’ve been waiting for? she asked again into the silence, answered only by a tiny rainbow that shot through the prism and onto the floor. 

And so, while the professor was indeed intended to be grading answers regarding the Potsdam Declaration and the Platt Amendment, instead she thought about what a wonderful universe this was that she could play even a little part in answering the prayers of the Laughing Yoga Frog.

The world is a perfect place, created by a perfect creator whose imagination is still unfolding. 

From how Alex's mom told the professor this is how they found out that huge thing that shook and angered pretty much everyone except the Laughing Yoga Frog.

When Alex came home for Christmas vacation, he sent his mother out shopping to buy a present for Reggie.

 She bought the NFL cap Alex picked and had it shipped right to Reggie so he would have it for Christmas.

Then she checked Alex's account balance and it looked strangely low.  She went online to his bank and saw something wrong.

A series of withdrawals had been made from Alex's account, many on Tuesdays and Thursdays when he was on campus for the professor's class and under Reggie's protection and supervision.

Questions lead to more questions which lead Alex's mom to call the professor with a very specific question.

 Do you have the picture you mention in the book, the one with you, the frog, Alex, and the guy you called "Reggie?"

The professor says yes, yes of course, which is how the professor found out what had happened and why the picture was needed by the police to help identify Reggie. 

Because of the Laughing Yoga Frog, a silent statue that moved through the universe effortlessly, the professor *indeed* had that picture that Alex's mom and the police needed.  

Everything made sense in an awful sad wonderful way.  
Here is the cover of the very short book Alex and  published and which I desperately need to revise and help him sell, because all the money from this book goes to him. This is not the picture with Reggie in it*
If you are enjoying this story about former students, I hope you will consider supporting a current student, Marvin Cristopher Blanco 

Each bit of creation from the perfect creator is also perfect, both a piece in itself and also part of a whole.