This was my New Year’s gift from Romana, seven years ago. She made this bracelet for me from paper, tape and jewels. I was invited to her house, and I was thunderstruck by the gift.
It is a treasure, and I told her, “I will wear this on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday”. Romana beamed. What she didn’t know at that moment is that I did, indeed, do this. The gift isn’t about my visit to her house. It’s about all our moments together, ‘The Hundred Little Things’. The littlest moments, those that make you feel good inside but otherwise may seem unimportant, are really big; they’re building blocks for life. It takes a hundred little things to manifest itself as a big thing, or I should say an important thing. The bracelet is a ‘big thing’ because it was a labor of love, which could only have happened after a hundred little things.
So, where did those hundred little things with Romana begin?
When Romana started in my preschool class, she was barely three years old. She didn’t speak English. Her family was from Romania, and she spoke Romanian. Young children are far better at adapting to a new school and a new language than adults are. Romana was quiet and kind, and she easily made friends. I remember playing a game of Musical Chairs. In my version, every time the music stops I take away a chair. Children have to find a lap of another child to sit on. When we get down to two or three chairs, it is a scramble. The squeals and laughing say it all. Romana is on the far right. See her big smile? She was happy. Everyone loved Romana.
Romana loved this game of Musical Chairs. She also loved art.
As a three-year-old she helped illustrate our classroom God Bless America book. She was proud to draw those purple mountains. I will forever think of Romana when I see that page in the book. Of course, that book inspired a quilt. Children designed the quilt, and Milly the quilter sewed it.
Romana and Milly bonded like best buddies. The God Bless America quilt now hangs at the Fisher House in Boston.
For Romana, the hundred little things exploded with Milly the quilter. On Milly’s birthday, Romana delivered flowers. Every time they were together, their eyes and smiles were locked on to each other. They didn’t talk much. Words weren’t necessary.
Milly was visiting to finalize helping children select fabrics for our quilt. Romana wanted to tell Milly that she was going to Romania, so we opened our big book atlas and found Romania. This was an in-depth discussion with everyone. We looked at how far Romania is from France (we studied France last year). We didn’t know that Romania is on the Black Sea (did you know that?)
I learned much about family traditions and culture in Romania. When Romana was five or six, she went to Romania – alone – to spend much of the summer with her grandparents. They only spoke Romanian. I taught Romana’s younger sister and brother in the following years.
And then the unthinkable happened.
Their father became sick with cancer and died in a relatively short period of time. His mother came to America from Romania to see her son before he died. I went to their house to take care of the children so the adults could have some time together. That was so sad. We played. I brought along my autoharp and a stack of picture books.
I will never forget the funeral. I’d never been to a Greek Orthodox funeral. It was formal, with an open casket. Children were in a playroom downstairs, yet Romana came into the sanctuary, saw me, and climbed up onto my lap for much of the funeral. My goodness! She was fine. I held it together.
Over the next few years I visited, always bringing my autoharp and a stack of books. We played, sang, danced, and read stories. It was delightful.
Time moves on and so do children and their families. A few years ago the family stopped by school to say hello and goodbye, as they are moving out of town. I wasn’t there! So, they wrote messages to me on the chalkboard, and climbed up on the loft in my classroom to make me a video.
I have watched the video at least seven million times. I love you, Romana. I love your family. Thank you!