For Malvin

Last week, I told another chaplain a story about a student I had in Jakarta. “He sounds wise,” she said. “Yes,” I agreed, “very” (and also rambunctious!). I knew we were Facebook friends at some point, so I went to his page thinking I would remind him of his adolescent wisdom and see what he’s up to these days. Instead, I discovered that he died a little over a year ago–while living his best life. I am not sure if I find that soothing or extra devastating. Both, perhaps.

I went to my living-in-Jakarta blog, searched his name, and found that I had already written down my favorite memories. The first is the one I shared last week in response to being told that I am “too nice for my own good.”

*

Year Twelve and I spent a few class periods watching Rabbit Proof Fence again last month. Class 12.4 requested popcorn, and I agreed.

The next class day, as promised, I brought popcorn. Malvin came up to my desk a few minutes after the distribution and asked, “Miss, did you just get popcorn for us or for all of the classes?” “All of you.” Of course. “Oh miss,” he shook his head dramatically, “this world is not going to be kind to you.”

It resonated because even though he was joking, he also wasn’t. It was one of those moments (they happen more and more frequently) when all I can think is, “I am my mother.”

Malvin is a sweet kid (I should also note that class only functioned smoothly when he was late or absent). He ate lunch with me in the canteen yesterday. We planned to have a party for my final meeting with each class, but there was a last minute chapel practice, so the parties were off. I didn’t find out until later, but he must have known. He kept saying, “So sad, miss” every time I ran into him that morning. I suspect that he made the lunch arrangements because he knew how sad I would be when I found out.

There are too many things that I didn’t say and that I wouldn’t know how to even if I had more time–about all of them. I’ve never met a class that was so close-knit. There are no cliques. There are closer groups of friends within the group, but no distinctive in-group. They are one. I know I haven’t taught a lot of classes; I don’t only refer to classes that I’ve taught. Out of every class I’ve observed or taught or been a part of, they stand out. I will be a sap like this every time I have to say goodbye, but I don’t imagine that I will ever say that again.

*

(I can’t remember what Malvin was trying to convince me of.)

“Yes, I can. God told me I could.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah, he texted me.”

“He texted you?”

“Yeah!”

“Weird. He usually BBMs me.”

Not to brag, but that joke was a hit.

*

I almost titled this “Too Much Birthday” (Berenstain Bears reference anyone?), but then I remembered that I hate titles—and that I like consistency.

I spent the weekend prior to my birthday at Jenti’s house, and I really enjoyed celebrating it with a family. I thought we’d go out to dinner and that it would be really nice, and that would be it. But after dinner came cake and gifts and handmade cards from her three kids. So I mean “too much birthday” as in “way more birthday than I deserve.”

Sunday night, I went to Central Park Mall with Anika, Ruth, Brady, and Tyler. The plan was sushi and beer, two of my favorite things. We got to the restaurant, and before I sat down, a sorting hat was placed on my head. After I sat in front of my Ravenclaw place card, I was wanded (11 inches, bamboo, aged Macaw feather at the core) and gifted (boxes of coffee mix and a cat mug.) I was thoroughly happy, and I told myself to prepare for a bad birthday day (as if that is how it works.)

On my actual birthday, I walked into my first class of the day to find that half the students were missing.

“Where is everyone?”

Blank faces.

“Miss, I’m going to go to the bathroom.”

(Excuse me?) “Sit down, please, and I’ll let you go after we get started.”

Five students vacated the room.

Malvin popped his head in, “Miss I came back to tell you that I just don’t feel like working today. I’m going to hang out in the hall.”

“Me too!”

“Me too!”

And two more students left the room.

I took a deep breath and told them to please come inside. They did not. Just as I was about to snap, or break down crying, I saw a cake. With candles. And all thirty (give or take) students came walking in, smiling and singing.

I think I’ll stop there. I don’t want to ruin the moment by recreating the scene too well here. I’ve noticed that. I don’t try and recreate what I truly want to remember. Once you’ve written something down, the words encapsulate it. The words bind it. The memory is gone, except for what you’ve written. I don’t want that.

*

I disagree with twenty-two year old Caroline. Or, I don’t remember nearly enough, and I really wish I had written more down. Quite possibly, I remember these scenes so well because I wrote them.

I am deeply thankful that I knew this young, playful, wise person for a time, and I am devastated.