purple tiger
Photo by my niece, with permission

In second grade we had open house with Ms. Norwood. It was not open nor a house. It was a dark school. The playground was ready for bedtime. Lights out, wrapped in blankets. I was behind stage waiting for a performance. Was I supposed to be quiet? Would there be xylophones?

Adults with their smells, hair, and complicated jewelry mulled about the classrooms. Their bodies drifted like planets in orbit, dwarfing anything close. They paused at shelves, display boards, and desks to tilt their heads, to consider. “Guess how many beans are in this jar.”

Ms. Norwood gave me a hug that covered me like an umbrella. Her arms softened the pitter-patter of the adults. “Baby, Phillip, I’m happy to see you,” she said. Her hair was stiff in curls.

I loved Ms. Norwood. She loved me even when I brought her new words, words made her face get sad, just the sad sort of face mom got when Renegade, the dog, brought home groundhogs, squirrels, and birds in scattered pieces.

Ms. Norwood sat me down at a desk with papers and crayons. It was noisy but I focused. The paper and crayons were like a magnificent bouquet of flowers at a noisy dinner party. When I flipped the paper over, I saw a tiger. “Wow,” I thought to myself.

Ms. Norwood said I could do anything I wanted with the tiger, so I did. I had no idea it was an unusual thing until the adults pointed it out. “It’s purple,” they said.

In the stack of papers, I could see all the other tigers were orange.

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