Kavi’s First Mini Job

Kavi has finished two weeks as a counsellor-in-training at Camp Spark, the all-day local camp she and Anand both went to as kids. She did great, and was very fond of the kids, and very sad saying goodbye to them all on Friday.

She really liked the work overall (though she’s discovered that little kids do complain a lot about heat and walking…their legs are TIRED! don’t you understand???), and is tentatively planning to apply for a full-time job (9 weeks) as a camp counsellor next summer when she’s 16.

I’m super-proud of her. First mini job, yay! In this family, we value hard work.

But I admit, I hesitate to encourage Kavi to look at a career long-term working with kids, because in America, we value that so little, and pay for the work so poorly (see also Florida, which has just decided to allow veterans without college degrees, much less any actual pedagogy training, to teach kids). Even if Kavi becomes a doctor (like most of my family, and something she’s potentially interested in), if she becomes a pediatrician, she’ll be at the bottom of the doctor pay scale.

It makes me sad; I want Kavi to have a financially stable career, one that can support her, and support a family too, if she chooses. That’s damned hard to do if you want to work with kids.

How is it that we claim to love children so much, and yet value their care so little?

Kavi didn’t let me take any photos of her as a camp counsellor (she is curating her photos a little more carefully these days, and I have agreed to only post Kavi-approved photos of her here), so I leave you with a poem, and with the Starbucks-inspired lemon loaf she baked yesterday, just because she felt like it. Well, I leave you with a third of it — the rest was very quickly devoured.

*****

The Lanyard

BY BILLY COLLINS

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary

where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips

into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy

red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,

and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,

which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,

is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

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