3 1/2 years ago, my then second grade daughter struggled in a public school gifted student program. She had stopped reading, writing and even putting her name on a worksheet. Her self-esteem hovered below zero and her normally sunny personality had melted away. As parents we became frantic for reasons and solutions.
Our daughter was then diagnosed by a local but nationally known expert as having a learning disorder. Knowing the "why" led to asking the "now what"? Of course the expert had a list of recommendations. I asked, mother to mother, what should I do first.
She did not hesitate; "enroll your daughter in Miriam Darnell's Creative Expressions writing club."
Thankful for something I could do immediately, I did just that.
I will never forget the first Sunday afternoon club meeting, November 2000. The group we tried was all little girls with similar issues and was called, "Dream Catchers." My daughter was born eccentric, and for that afternoon she dressed in leopard pj's, a pink feather boa, Tweety Bird slippers and sunglasses. This had been a more or less normal outfit in the past and I was actually happy to see the old friends back on. I thought at the time that she may testing this new idea, seeing what the initial reactions would be.
Miriam didn't bat an eye, welcoming her with twinkling eyes. I left my daughter with my cell phone number, expecting to be called early with, "I want to go home now," and waited at a neighborhood park. That call never came.
When I picked my daughter up, she skipped!!! down the walk and jumped into the car. She jabbered all the way home about the kids, ("I made a new friend, Arnelle. She wants to be a mushroom when she grows up!"). But mostly she jabbered about Miriam and the stories she wanted to tell, like they had been locked up inside of her somewhere and Miriam was the magical key master.
My daughter writes constantly now, developing characters, plots stories, excels at essays and vocabulary, plays imagination driven role-playing games with the kids in the club and at school. The words are still coming, the tools at her fingertips, on her lips or safely tucked away to find, catch or file them away.
Now I look back on the second grade disaster as actually a blessing in disguise. It is so hard for parents when they can't help their children. So we look for a safe place for our kids, if even for an hour or two. Especially when they might have a broken wing or extra vulnerable souls. Miriam has offered a soft, gentle lap while she magically repairs what ails them, provides guidance and a safe nest when they fly on their own., a place where their words to be safe and to be heard.
I could never minimize what Miriam did for our family that first Sunday afternoon. She understood the trust and has never faltered in the role she has in the lives of these kids. They know they are safe. Period. What they don't know yet, but will when they are parents, is that Miriam is a gift.
- Kate M.