April 25, 2016
I will admit it: my six year-old daughter is late for school almost every day. There are a few reasons why. One, she is the youngest of four kids, and thus, our sleep schedule is so different for her than it was for her older siblings. When they were in first grade, I am pretty sure they were in bed by 8 p.m. at the latest. These days, we are lucky if the youngest is in bed by nine.
Going to bed at 9, and hopefully falling asleep by 9:30, makes it tough for my daughter to be up, dressed, fed and in school by its 7:30 start time (driven by busing needs, I think). In fact, most mornings, it feels impossible. My husband and I both work from home, which is a blessing and a curse. We don’t have to be at a job site by 8 a.m.; this means we often can let her sleep in a bit.
This morning, she finally got out of bed at 7:30, after more than a half an hour of us trying to shake and cajole her awake. Once up, she was cheery–eating a big breakfast, talking animatedly with her siblings, and asking to hear that Prince song again, as the singer’s recent death has been a big topic of conversation in our Minneapolis household (“My Name is Prince” is her current favorite).
At last, my patience with her extended morning routine ran out. She rushed upstairs at the last minute for “one more thing.” I turned away to check emails and organize my thinking for the day. When I turned back to her, she was seated at the dining room table, surrounded by a pile of pens and pencils. “Come on, Anna,” I said with exasperation, “You’ve got to get to school.”
Without looking up or stopping her pen, she said, “Mom, do not interrupt a girl doing a dandelion.” A dandelion? I took a look at the little notebook I had given her once, as a cast-off from a conference I’d attended. Inside, she had started to make her own collection of Shopkins characters (after four kids, I’ve learned not to actually purchase many of these fad toys, so she’s making her own). Last night, she told me, she created “Violetta,” a violet-colored, flower-shaped creature with a smiley face. Now, she was working on “Dandelion.”
I looked on her page and saw a round dandelion flower with a face. The eyes are closed, and five purple lines float in the air above the dandelion’s head. She finally dashed off to school, in the pouring rain, before I could ask her to explain the picture to me. Were the slashes supposed to be purple rain? It’s possible–that song has been playing everywhere this weekend–but I don’t want to assume, in her absence.
My own connection to Prince is about me, not him. I was a little too young to fully ride the Purple Rain wave when it hit Minneapolis in the early ’80’s, but I do recall–vividly, deeply–how every high school social experience I had (from attending awkward, crepe paper-strewn dances to screaming around corners in my dad’s smoke blue Saab) was accompanied by the Prince albums Controversy, 1999 and Purple Rain.
My body and soul rejoiced then, as now, with Prince’s explosion of bawdiness and reverence. In the hours and days following his death, I have learned more about the person behind the flash, and some of my favorite stories have to do with Prince’s time in the Minneapolis Public Schools, where I grew up, and where my late-to-school daughter is now a student.
His Minneapolis classmate, Eben Shapiro, penned a quick piece for the Wall Street Journal, on April 21, the day Prince died. Hindsight and shock can undoubtedly color our memories, but Shapiro’s seem pretty consistent with other things I’ve read about Prince:
When I was in seventh grade at Bryant Junior High School, an old three-story brick public school in inner-city Minneapolis, we all knew that one kid was the best player in the band. He played the trumpet, and he handled many of the band’s arrangements. We all thought the Bryant band’s rendition of “Shaft” was even better than the original.
….At school he had free run of the band room. Many days, he spent hours playing the piano, alone in a small glass-enclosed practice room.
My heart stopped, of course, with this: “At school he had free run of the band room.” I don’t want to use Prince’s life or death to make a point about ed reform, but I do wonder. How many Prince-like kids today are we allowing “free run” of anything? Where would Prince’s talents and ambitions fit today, on the college and career pipeline?
My oldest two kids go to South High, near Prince’s now torn down high school, Minneapolis Central. Yesterday, a letter from a South High teacher’s mom popped up on Facebook, and on South’s website. The teacher’s mom, Jenise Doty, went to Central High with Prince, and reflected on who he was as a student:
As a kid, Prince was short, shy and not remarkable looking. He was not as popular a basketball player as his half brother.
But he loved music, and he pursued it relentlessly (sometimes skipping class to do it).
Today is a perfect opportunity for us and our students to take another look at that person at school that we have been underestimating. Look left, look right and look within and ask ourselves: how awesome would it be if this person found something they really loved to do, worked at it, and shared it with others? You don’t have to be world famous to have impact.
Today, I guess, is also a perfect day not to interrupt a girl when she’s drawing a dandelion.
No grant, no guru, no outside funding source. My work is entirely funded by my very kind and generous readers. Thank you to those who have already donated!