In 1994, a careless playground attendant failed to observe a little boy sitting on my son pounding his face with tiny but determined fists. Both boys described the incident’s culminating events the same way. My son “used his words” but the boy wouldn’t relent. My son couldn’t “walk away” because the child out-weighed him and had parked his sturdy body on my son’s chest. Since the playground attendant did not respond to his cries “seeking help”, my son bit the kid.
The kid got sent home. I could not be reached because I had gone to Chillicothe for a day of depositions, so my son sat in a chair outside the pre-school director’s office until I arrived at 5:00 p.m. It seems that biting a child, even in self-defense, qualified him as a miscreant. The incident had occurred at morning recess. My three-year-old spent six and a half hours on a chair in the director’s hallway because they would not release him to my alternate emergency contacts despite having the proper authorizations on file. Tired, hungry, and confused, my son asked over and over: “Why didn’t you come?”
A week later, with the help of a friend who persuaded the owner of Purple Dragon Pre-school to bump my son up the waiting list, Patrick moved schools. That turn of events gave my son the most marvelous educational experience any three-year old could hope to have. At Purple Dragon, he came under the care of Magda Hellmuth, whose sweet but firm tutelage surrounded her thirty charges with love and comfort and also inspired their minds to reach without limitation. Over the next two years, son learned to read, write, sign his name in cursive, add, subtract, divide, and to cheerfully partake of every kind of food imaginable, including both borscht and artichokes.
But perhaps more critical for the progress of both my son’s life and mine, he met, and became friends with, a curly-haired, adventurous, rowdy little boy named Chris Taggart.
Nearly twenty-one years later, our lives remain intertwined with those of the growing Taggart family. Chris’s mother Katrina became my closest friend and one of three or four people who have remained loyal, steadfast, and supportive through all of my trials, tribulations, joys, triumphs, failures, and frights. Her children became my “shared children”. She and her husband, Ross, have taken me to the hospital, buried pets, baby-sat my child, taken him on adventures that my body wouldn’t allow me to do, and shared their children’s rites of passages and those of my son as well. Ross and Katrina have received me into their home when desolation dogged me. Together, we’ve attended weddings, funerals, births, graduations, and sports events. I know that they would respond to any cry for help because they have done so; and they know that I would do the same for them.
While it might stretch the imagination to believe that I’m grateful for the little boy who pummeled my son on that small playground twenty years ago, I can say that I am thankful for the turn of events which took my son to Magda Hellmuth’s marvelous school, and which brought us into the orbit of one of the finest, most loving families that I have ever known.
So, to each of you, I offer my hope that you have your own “Taggart family”, but also, that you appreciate their enriching influence on your lives. I am grateful for a turn of events which worked out, and brought my son and me the friendship of these beautiful people. I am grateful for them — Ross and Katrina; their children — Jennie and her husband Brett; Caitlin and her fiance Bryan; Chris and his girlfriend Sam; and Jennie and Brett’s children, Benton, Nora and Gavin.
Here are some photos of our 2014 Christmas with the Taggarts.