I am thank full for nothing, Riley writes plainly in his journal. I read his words and look up to meet his face.
Really, nothing at all you are thankful for? He smiles, wrinkles his nose at me, and shakes his blond head side-to-side.
I think back to earlier that day, when I entered the three-room schoolhouse, the only aide guiding me to the classroom for second, third, and fourth grade boys and girls.
Be strict with them, she says with a knowing half-smile. A smirk, really.
The Hutterite girls flock my little table in the corner, gifting me with a bag of cheese sticks, wrapped cakes, a cookie, gum, candies, and homemade bread. Two of them ask me to put my hair down, to see what it looks like not lazily clipped up. I ask about their hair, disguised under a cloth to honor a code of modesty. They remove pins, and plain long hair falls from under it, and they proudly turn for me to see. It is their crown.
A few more girls come up to the table; ask me if I am married. I tell them yes and say his name, and they nod in recognition. He is cuuuute, Hannah says with big eyes. I laugh, mostly because I am surprised to hear this from the mouth of a third grade Hutterite girl.
We say the pledge of allegiance, sit down, and prepare for the routine. They ask me to go with them to see the geese at recess; it’s time to butcher. I respectfully decline.
After a long day of trying to recall math, and even worse, explain it, I finish reading Shiloh out loud and dismiss them.
The children walk me to my car, asking me to bring my pups the next time I come. I try to explain why this won’t work, but I give up.
Relaxing in my vehicle, I begin the two mile drive east toward home. Those kids have a good life, a village to raise them, and love that isn’t questioned. They are happy children in a community I don’t fully understand, and that’s ok.
Soon I am greeted by a 1950s farmhouse; the smell of cattle and silage and November air. A place that speaks love to me.
I let my hair down, still damp from the morning’s shower.
I am thank full.