American Pie

(continued from yesterday’s blog “Do You Hear the People Sing”)

Still reeling from the call from the evil woman from Chase Bank, I walked down the hall and into the first classroom to make sure the kids were behaving in the teacher’s absence.  Most of the kids were playing around with what appeared to be a science experiment.  They had two-liter Coke bottles attached to each other at the spout and sealed.  There was enough water inside to fill one of the bottles at a time and so when they inverted the hour-glass-looking configuration and gave it a bit of a swirl, it created a tornado effect in the water of the top bottle as it emptied into the lower.

I noticed that one child didn’t seem to be particularly interested in the Coke bottles, the tiny tornadoes or the children playing with them.  It was “Denver.”  You remember I told you about Denver last week when I was writing about the new playground equipment two of my awesome blog readers donated.  He’s pretty quiet, keeps to himself most of the time.  I can see him talking to himself a lot, entertaining himself with his own imagination as I have always done.  He doesn’t seem particularly unhappy. It’s almost as if he’s realized that he is different from the other kids and has resigned himself to make the best of it.  One little girl told me this week, “Everybody thinks he’s weird.”  I told her how wonderful I thought weird was.  Denver is articulate, imaginative and sensitive.  His manner and speech put one in mind of an Elizabethan actor, complete with British accent.  I like the kid.  He reminds me a lot of me at his age.  I like to talk to him.  He always has the most interesting things to say and seeing him usually gives me a lift.  Knowing what he must be going through being “that weird boy” also hurts my heart sometimes.  I remember what it’s like, for sure.  But if he goes on to realize how cool his weirdness makes him, he’s in for a better life than the kids who make fun of him.  I do my best to offer subtle encouragements along the way.  I know how much that would have meant to me back then.  The only adult male outside my family who ever paid any particular attention to me based on qualities I really did possess went on to molest me.  It makes me want to be there for Denver, to give him appropriate attention, to make sure such a horrible thing never happens to him.  But I can’t be with all of them all of the time.  I wish I could.  So as I said, as usual Denver was sort of off in the corner twirling around and saying something to himself.  Perhaps it was selfish on my part but after the horrible conversation with the woman at Chase, I could have done with a “Denver-ism” or two.

“Hello, Denver.  What’s shakin’?”

“Nothing.  Would you like to hear part of a song I know?”

(Would I?!)  I knelt down and sat on my heels which put me at about eye level with The Poet Laureate of “Westside” Elementary.  He held up one hand, closed into a fist in front of his chest with the knuckles facing his other hand which was open, palm facing down.  He began to flap the fingertips of his open hand back and forth on the knuckles of his closed hand making of both hands a sort of percussion instrument.  I was pretty sure he was about to launch into either rap or Beat poetry.  Then he softly began to sing:


“I met a girl who sang the blues

And I asked her for some happy news,

But she just smiled and turned away.”

And when I recognized the old familiar Don McLean Lyrics, my eyes flooded so completely with tears I could barely see the little feller.


“I went down to the sacred store

Where I’d heard the music years before,

But the man there said the music wouldn’t play.

And in the streets: the children screamed,

The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.

But not a word was spoken;

The church bells all were broken.”

A couple of my tears fell and here is what makes this kid not only special but extraordinary.  Most kids would have probably freaked and said something like, “Why are you crying?  Don’t you like it?”  But when he saw how much his song affected me, he just kept on singing, his eyes now too flooded with tears and emotion.

And the three men I admire most:

The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost

They caught the last train for the coast

The day the music died.

And when he came to the chorus, I joined in to sing the harmony.  Up until now I’m sure that he could tell that I was enjoying his performance but what happened on his face when he realized that I actually knew his song defies description.  So there we were, two poetic and weird boys sharing sacred communion across a generation thanks in part to a weird boy, lyric poet from another generation, and to a Creator who loves us as we are.

Isn’t it nice to look back at times in your life, to special moments when you realized that no matter what other chaos and stress may have been eating away at you, no matter how tough life was, in that moment everything was beautiful?  And you know what’s even better than that?  Realizing it while the moment is happening.  And they were singing…

“Bye-bye, miss American pie.”

Drove my Chevy to the levee,

But the levee was dry.

And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye

Singin’, “this’ll be the day that I die.

“this’ll be the day that I die.”


About this entry