Busy, busy

SaraOur younger daughter Sara, throughout her life, has always seemed to be busy with some project or other - assemblages, construction, art, etc. Sometimes when we took short trips to New York to visit family, she would not be able to carry out her usual activities during the trip. Upon our return, she would often pull out assorted materials in order, it seemed, to get her "fix" of the projects she had missed while away.

Since her mind was so busy, she had a hard time making a transition to sleep. In an earlier entry, #0021, Kids say the darndest things, I mentioned Sara's bedtime negotiations. Once, when Margie told Sara to "Go to bed", Sara replied emphatically, "I am going to bed." But then, as she turned and walked off, I heard her mumble under her breath, "Just very slowly."

As I mentioned in entry #0050, Disable interrupts, had I been in school in modern times, I might well have been diagnosed with A.D.H.D. ("Attention Deficit & Hyperactivity Disorder"). Some people think it's a much over-used diagnosis these days, making it easy to medicate children with Ritalin to keep them from being disruptive in class. I was almost never disruptive, but certainly my brain wandered a lot (and actually, it still does). My fourth-grade math teacher, Mr. Healey, reported that I often seemed to be staring off into space. On the other hand, he also reported that when he then asked me a question related to what he had just been talking about, I always came back with the correct answer.

Apparently, like me, Sara sometimes seemed to not be paying attention in class. Margie talked to one of her teachers about this. The teacher said that when she lost Sara, it must have been because Sara was thinking about something more interesting than the class material, and that it was her job as a teacher to try to make the class material more engaging.

Sara seldom actually sat at a desk, sometimes standing with one knee on the chair as she worked. This annoyed some teachers, who thought that students ought to be required to sit quietly in the proper seated position, preferably with good posture (although Sara was never in any way disruptive). Margie attempted to defuse this issue with a later teacher, by telling him about Sara's habits in a pre-school-year conference. To his credit, he said, "Why would that bother me?".

Moving around a lot had its disadvantages. Going into a restaurant one day, Sara managed to catch her finger in the door on the way in. The restaurant staff helpfully provided us with some ice to relieve the swelling. Sara fidgeted in her chair as usual, but this time she abruptly fell off the chair, and landed on the floor. The waiter brought us more ice. As we were leaving after the meal, Margie noted that the staff had been very nice to us, despite all the trouble. I replied, "They were probably happy to see us leave without a lawsuit."

Sara took her projects seriously. We once attended some elementary school event at which artwork by all the students was on display. All the students but Sara, that is, who didn't seem to have a piece in evidence. When we asked, the teacher replied that for some reason Sara had not wanted to participate in this particular project.

Back at home, we asked Sara about it. "Oh, Mom," she said, "did you see those ugly colors they gave us?" Sara had asked for other paints, but the teacher not being able to supply any, Sara's aesthetic sense apparently did not allow her to complete a painting.

I sometimes had the impression that Sara's brain worked a bit differently from other people's - or at least from mine. I often had a great deal of difficulty working with her on mathematics in particular, as I couldn't always follow how she was thinking about a problem. She sometimes didn't appear to use the usual methods, yet she always liked solving mathematical and logical puzzles. Often she couldn't explain to me just how she knew the answer, but she was generally correct.

Eventually, she got her first shot at the College Board's "Scholastic Aptitude Test" (S.A.T.) in mathematics (if you didn't like your first score, it was possible to repeat it the following year). When we opened the envelope with the results, she had scored an astonishing 780 out of a possible 800. Margie and I looked at each other, and said simultaneously, "Don't take it again." To this day, Sara is a whiz at mathematical and logical games.

As Sara got older, she started to do a lot of travel. Having studied French in high school, she went off to France one summer. Margie tracked her flight to France, as usual (see entry #0046, Roots and wings), and was a bit disturbed when Sara didn't phone shortly after she was supposed to have arrived. I thought Margie was worrying needlessly. After all, I reasoned, Sara had just landed after a long voyage, was no doubt very tired, and so she was probably taking a nap. Sara finally did call, and we found out the reason she had not phoned earlier. Immediately upon arrival, she had gone parasailing. Sara is seldom still, unless she's actually asleep.

SaraAfter graduating from Northwestern University, Sara answered an ad in the Boston Globe, and got a job with an American family, as a private tutor for their first and fourth grade children. They were traveling the world, and took Sara to Nepal, Thailand, South Africa, Pakistan, and India. The picture to the right shows Sara in Nepal, wearing a sari.

A very short synopsis of the trip, and a gallery of Sara's pictures from Nepal, can be found on the "Traveling Teacher" section of Sara's website. Her travel involved helicopter rides through the Himalayas to a village that was a 15 hour walk from the end of the nearest road. It was a remarkable experience.

When the job ended in India, she remained there for another three months, before returning home to start a more conventional teaching career.

SaraIf you visit http://globetwisting.com/, her website, you'll see that it revolves around a great hobby that Sara found for someone who likes to work with her hands: balloon twisting. That is, she has become quite adept at making assorted "sculptures" out of balloons. She usually attends the annual "Twist and Shout" balloon convention, wherever it is in the United States, where she has won a few twisting contests. Her skill has advanced to the point of being able to supplement her income with professional balloon twisting entertainment "gigs". (You can click the picture to the left to enlarge it, and return with your "Back" button.)

A Harvard educational consultant whom Sara worked with on a project in Alaska once said to her something like, "Is it my imagination, Sara, or do you have more hours in your day than everybody else?"

#0053   *FAMILY2

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© 2010 Lawrence J. Krakauer   Click here to send me e-mail.
Originally posted November 4, 2010