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I missed the Open House and art show yesterday at the summer school my daughter attends. I’m still kicking myself a bit.

My somewhat lame excuses: a few projects at my shortened workday this week where I needed/wanted to make progress, and the logistics of finding a ride to the Open House and back. Because of my faith, which I can get into later on, I gave up my driver’s license soon after I moved to Hawaii. I mostly walk or am driven by friends and by my husband. Fortunately, he very much enjoys nearly all aspects of the modern world!

MaiTagWhen a friend drove me to pick up Ellen, one of her teachers said it was fine for me to take a quick peek at the students’ artwork. I scanned the beautiful creations hanging on a line fastened from one wall to another so adults could stand and marvel. I saw a piece of colored paper with Ellen’s name, which she herself wrote, but I did not see an illustration. “Oh, no,” I thought, “Does Ellen have a mostly blank piece of paper?”

But then I saw the other side. Ellen had made a collage with a figure near the top of a tree. The facial features were more abstract than those drawn by other students, but they were recognizable. Her classmates’ figures were at the bottom of the tree and somewhat clearly defined. Their colors seemed pretty appropriate for trees, grass, the animals near it. Ellen’s choice of colors and the shape of her animal were fascinating, but not what I would call at first blush standard. But I could not stop staring at it, could barely contain the pride that moved through my body in a few seconds. It was stunning.

Ellen’s school work is in some regards not quite at the level of her age peers, but she is more than ahead of the game in understanding, reading, and speaking two languages (English and German). Her fine-motor skills need improvement, but she is getting there. I tried not to compare Ellen’s art to that of her classmates, but I couldn’t help myself. I’m sure this is a father’s heart speaking, but I recognized a real sensitivity in Ellen’s creation.

Later after tossing and catching a ball with Ellen for 45 minutes and practicing addition with her for another 30, we made breaded tofu together. Ellen mentioned the Open House. I told her how sorry I was I couldn’t make it. She said, “That’s all right, Papa. I made a panda in a forest!” So that’s what that figure was: Ellen’s panda up in a tree, smiling and knowing it could be proud of how high it had climbed.