little ellis

Like I’ve said before, there’s something about sushi that brings people together to gab, gets conversation flowing, lifts the spirits, perhaps.

The other night I was in with my out-laws—I mean out with my in-laws—at our local sushi joint. After a very enjoyable hour with a basket of shrimp and vegetable tempura, a plate of glistening seaweed salad, a platter of baby hamachi sushi in ponzu sauce (their first—and I thought heroic—real try at raw fish,) a huge bowl of soba noodles and a glass of Pinot Grigio, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. In the narrow, dimly lit hallway I heard a pint-sized voice talking to me. I looked down to see a sweet round face, beautifully framed in silky dark-blond hair, beaming up at me. “I’m in Mrs. Sciacca’s class,” she chirped cheerfully. At once, I knew who she was, “oh, yes, but I forget your name.” She reminded me, “Ellis.”

I told little Ellis that I remembered her from my visit to Calvin’s first grade class, the one he’s mainstreamed in for a portion of his half-day at school. I’d gone in to tell the kids a bit about Calvin since he can’t do it for himself. They sat around me in a circle as I told them about his epilepsy, his seizures, his trouble learning all things, and then they rattled off some questions. But before we’d gathered I’d been sitting with Calvin and his one-on-one Mary on small plastic chairs around a low table. I believe Ellis was the first child to introduce herself to me. I’d complimented her on her cute name and noted, in my mind, the fact that she’d lost some teeth recently. Just like Calvin, I thought.

“What a good memory you have,” I said as I knelt down and looked into her bright eyes. “You asked some very good questions about Calvin that day,” I added. I wondered if she was eating sushi with her parents, and asked. She extended a dainty arm with a pointed finger toward the back of the restaurant. I patted her head. With a huge smile on my face I practically skipped to the far table in the corner where two women and a couple more kids were sitting. “I’m Calvin’s mom,” offering a hand to Ellis’ mother, “he’s in Mrs. Sciacca’s class with Ellis,” then mentioned I’d met her daughter when visiting the class. Ellis had told her mother about Calvin, which made me smile again. I gave one of my business cards to the women—the one with a photo of Calvin and me on front and, on the back, the web address to the blog—then bid them goodnight. “I’ll see you again soon,” I called to Ellis, remembering I’d volunteered to read books to the class.

As the three of us left the restaurant my mother-in-law said goodbye to the children. In her signature spunky style she crouched down and gave them each a spirited high-five. Earlier in the evening, when talking about her degree in elementary education, she had mentioned that little kids weren’t really her forte, that she was better at relating to teenagers. At that moment she could have fooled me ... or maybe it was the sushi.

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