Solomon and the Red BalloonMaryAnn F. Kohl
* photo caption:
Lummi nation - child, dancer.
Name of child not listed.
My kindergarten class had just watched the French film, The Red Balloon, a touching and beautifully rendered wordless children's classic. Our class was preparing for recess when Solomon Toby, a brown-eyed Native American boy, approached me requesting a private word.
"Mrs. Kohl," he said in a whisper, "I need to draw about that movie."
My heart rate buzzed. "Of course, you do," I smiled gently. This beautiful child, Solomon with the dark eyes and hair like the feathers of a crow, rarely expressed any interest in school activities or projects of any kind, and had not bonded with me, though I had reached out to him daily. My thoughts were racing to capture this moment with Solomon, to allow it to be meaningful for him, to tread gently so that it might be a possible springboard for future opportunities for learning and communication.
I excused the others to the playground and helped Solomon find a large fresh sheet of drawing paper and a box of unbroken crayons with the points still intact. He packed everything off to the reading corner tent to work alone.
As he worked, I reflected on this silent child. Solomon usually chose fighting over playing, and generally lived a pretty tough life which he acted out on a daily basis. But today, The Red Balloon had touched his heart and he couldn't keep his feelings inside.
I could see him through the entry of the tent. He was working with purpose, elbow and arm moving resolutely across the wide paper, filling it with visual expressions from his heart. He drew about the story of the Red Balloon who befriends a little boy, and about how that little boy loses his friend. He drew and drew.
His drawing was not the blonde French child in the film; it was a brown, strong boy running on a rocky beach with a huge red smiling balloon in tow on a heavy rope, a rope that would never come untied or let a balloon break free. The clouds he drew were gray with rays of sunlight spilling out from behind. The sea breaking on the shore was choppy with two fish jumping, smiles on their silvery faces. The boy was running with a look of surprise and joy on his crayoned face. I could tell that this boy would never let his balloon go, would never lose his gentle friend.
When the drawing was finished, I saw Solomon start to cry. He cried silently, shoulders shaking, tears spilling down his smooth cheeks. I did not interrupt his privacy but waited nearby anxious to soothe his hurts.
When he left his drawing in the tent and walked towards me, I knew I was being allowed a rare gift in this child’s young life. As he approached, I scrunched down to his five year old level as he threw his arms around my neck, hugging me close to him, crying quietly until the sniffling began to subside. I remember thinking, “I will make a difference to this child. We can build from this together. We’re going to make it this one year we have together. Together, we’re going to make it.”
As the other children returned from recess, Solomon and I gathered up his drawing and supplies, but neither of us was the same. We had begun.