Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Quiet Type

Pete is what will be labeled (by people who label) "The Quiet Type." Just like his dad. 

They will call them this to their face and they will write them off of social events and certain popularity contests, will not include them and then name them most likely to succeed, and they will.

Peter doesn't have a lot to say about a lot of things, but when he has something to say it really matters, it's well thought out and it's spoken from the heart. It's also usually worth a listen. When he doesn't want to do something, there is no amount of pushing or prodding to get him to change his mind, but when he does want to do something he does it well. Really well. Like his dad.

Yesterday Peter suited up in a tiny white polo shirt and shorts and the white canvas boat shoes I'd bought him at a local shoe shop. Without even getting out of my car, and for less than $3, I used India's finest curbside takeaway. You see has been training for "Sports Day" at school, something which we knew nothing about, only that it required him to march instead of go to the playground for weeks in preparation. I figured anyone brave enough to attempt to get fifty children under the age of four to march in an orderly manner deserved at least to try. Brushing my hands off on my pants, I walked out of the headmaster's office. 

"Ok Madame, I hope this is worth it for you and Pete's lost recesses."

"Oh and it shall be."

*ding ding* Tea time.

We showed up to one of the nicest clubs in the city, The Madras Boat Club, last Friday morning for the event. Both Paul and Sam had taken the morning off to show their support. We pulled up chairs overlooking a tiny field with lines drawn in colored rice flour and awaited the games.

Alongside the neatly lined field, among brightly colored tents labeled for each class, "Reception," "Nursery" "P1" and "P2," Peter sat in a tiny colored chair and waited patiently to be called to order.

Kids screamed and thrashed and ran wildly around the field. Peter's "purple ladies" were there, they always are. 

To be honest I have no idea what the "Purple Ladies" are called, but they are silent and seem to float around, legs hidden beneath whooshing saris as they walk. At school a bell dings calling them to the headmaster's office and they scatter like ants in the rain. They serve tea to teachers throughout the day and cut fruit in the kitchen for snack time, they sweep the playground and greet the kids at the gate each morning and Peter swears they don't have names. When I asked him if he thanked them when they served his snack, he said, "No. We aren't supposed to." But, Peter is. They are probably someone’s mother or daughter, their names are probably beautiful and so are their voices these Quiet Types.

During the opening chaos, one of them took a fist to the head by a small French boy. She never flinched. Neither did the child's mother. 

When the music began to ooze from the outdoor speakers, Peter got up like a star in front of a crowd of parents from all over the world, dressed all in white and performed, marched and shook pompoms like nobody’s business. He shook those pom-poms so precisely and to the exact beat in a way more precise than even the choreographer could have possibly intended. I could see him counting beats in his head. Jump. Spin. Pom. Pom. He beamed when he spotted us in the crowd.

When it was his turn to race he waited in his lane, raced halfway down the field where he stood confused, looking at the spot where his undersea animal baton should have been. Moments before he'd arrived the kid in the next lane had grabbed his. He looked down, gave a huge pout one that is usually a sign of a great storm rising, then shrugged and smiled. He grabbed a new squid from his teacher and ran on. He finished the race through the bedazzled finish line held taught by Purple Ladies.

When the father's were called to the field unexpectedly for a foot race, Paul's pant leg brushed by my head, where I sat on a step near the field as he dropped Clem in my lap and took his lane. 

In his suit and tie, diplomatic ID tucked into his shirt pocket, he took his mark and raced directly toward us. The Quiet Guy.

The Quiet Guy who issues visas all day with a smile on his face and a kind word for everyone. People tell him he's too “nice.” The guy who leaves people who’ve come so far sometimes to hear “no”  again with at least a vision of kindness when their experience at the consulate that day isn’t to be replaced by travel plans and postcards of the Statue of Liberty.

He may have been more engaged in keeping Clementine and Sam close to him and enjoying Peter's first big performance than engaging anyone in conversation about one of the many things people find to complain about here daily. Though when his time came to shine for his children, he was at the start line before the invitation was complete.

That is the kind of thing the Quiet Type is quietly listening for. Something Pete from his little colored chair and Clem from my lap and Sam by my side were quietly watching. Something that didn’t scream, but taught grand lessons in soft whispers.

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