B N E A T H

Meet Jack.  

He’s in elementary school and has an older brother that attends highschool. Dad is in the Navy so this is the third school he’s attended in the last 4 years.  He’s in swimming club, scouts and today the school spelling bee which Mom has explained is not his first buzz.


Mom is open and friendly, a seemingly necessary characteristic of a long-term Navy wife with children though her dress opposes her demeanor.  Dad is currently overseas long-term so it is just her and the babes in the nest.  

She seems to be in her mid-fifties with blue eyes and straight shoulder length blond hair and it is apparent she takes care of herself. She’s decided to attend this event in a black dress, not the cocktail kind but the kind one might wear to a funeral. She was fully covered from neck to calf, arms included. The only hint to suggest she was not at a funeral was to catch her smile to see the sparkle in her eyes. It was dim and layered with an unnamable yet recognizable sorrow. 

This is Jack’s last year at this school and this state though he doesn’t know it just yet.  

She points out Jack as he heads onstage as I point out my child also heading onstage.  Jack is wearing blue shorts, an oversized yellow t-shirt and glasses.  From afar he strikes me as high energy, friendly and with a spirit not easily settled.

Round after round I became enamored with him because of all the participants he was the only to clap for his opponents each time a word was correctly spelled, to tell them “good job” or something along those lines when they made it back to their seat. At one point he even held up his hand to offer a high five but it was purposefully not acknowledged as he persisted to the podium to receive his next word with a smile.

He exhibited such confidence that each time he finished spelling a word he turned away from the microphone facing the judges table and headed back to his seat without waiting for confirmation that he was correct so when he spelled the word beneath and excluded the first ‘e’ my heart fell.  He’d spoken so quickly he didn’t realize it had been omitted.

He looked at Mom and immediately crumpled to inconsolable crying as she like the rest of us parents and the crowd clapped.  She looked at me and smiled her bright yet sad smile and I’m sure I returned something quite similar.

I didn’t even get her name after all that but we hugged before she left and my exit was not too far after hers.  My child included an ‘e’ that didn’t belong in the word diminutive.  My heart fell. She didn’t look at me as she headed off stage to the sound of applause.  Wanting to catch her emotion I observed her as she sat near the others.  She was smiling.

The letter ‘E’ holds tremendous meaning for me and because the meaning hasn’t been fully revealed I excite myself when imagining potential connections which always leads me to look deeper into a person, place or thing.

Sometimes I end up on a wheel spinning nowhere but today I found myself somewhat stranded in a dry lake of missing lttrs and wondering if Jack’s tears might cause water to rise or whether my child’s smile might be the undercurrent to the stillness held upon the surface of unspoken words.

Jack is moving to the Energy Capital of the world over 2,000 miles away and in my heart I know for sure that as he becomes a man he will question his worthiness, his sense of being enough.

His confidence will wane as being ignored becomes increasingly commonplace, as canvasing the world becomes brush stroke efforts to paint life in the world’s relevant tones until eventually what he perceives as missing will outweigh the truth, that the value inherent within his soul shines weightless, without sepia constructs and maybe most importantly, without enunciation.

My wish is that the jubilees contained in his little body grow to meet with the likes of those who freely hum to songs they don’t know the lyrics to and return to him a smile in response to his tears to encourage his natural light and affirm there will be times he too must hum while others he must sing and that between the two he is always enough regardless who understands the languages of his song.