“Janet is fat,” Thalia told my mother this weekend. She didn’t say it matter-of-factly. That would have been easier. Instead she said it in that sheepish, timid way that indicated she was testing the waters with her description of her preschool teacher to see how we would react.
“What does that mean, fat?” my mother (ever the Socratic scholar) asked, and Thalia just shrugged.
I tried it myself.
“Well who told you about fat?”
She didn’t answer. She just did that cute thing where she clutches her hands together under her chin and sways side to side.
“Do you know what fat is? How do you know that Janet is fat?”
“I just know. I can see her fat.”
“What is it that you see?”
“It’s a big belly,” she finally admitted. “A big round belly.” And I suppose she was right.
I just thought I’d have a little longer. A little longer where she didn’t see things like fat and freckles and frizzy hair and moles and lisps, and all the superficial traits that children use to divide the world up cruelly. A little longer of being the kid who said she could tell McCain from Obama because McCain’s hair was white. A little longer of knowing Janet not as the fat teacher, but as the teacher who played REM for the kids to dance to, treated each magic marker scribble like a hallowed piece of art, and simply loved Thalia to pieces.