Every Monday afternoon, I trek out to the Mission to visit and tutor my little tutee, who I shall name here as “Miss Frida,” at her elementary school.
Miss Frida is 8 years old, and the first second grader I’d ever describe as a shameless, shameless attention whore, but in the best, most wonderful way. She is so completely herself, and so in the moment, that I cannot stop smiling when I am with her. Even if she is making everyone stare at me because she is yelling “I LOVE MEAT!!! I LOVE BACON!!!” to the entire classroom, or because she is yodeling, or telling everyone I’m making her look at butts (in my defense, there is a surprising amount of nudity in Shel Silverstein).
As much as I love it though, her flamboyance does have a dark side…
I remember Miss Frida showing me the Halloween pictures posted in her school hallway. Innocently, I asked her to find me one of her. She pointed to a photo, and I leaned in. Among the pie-faced sweeties gathered on the playground in their costumes, there she was…a scowling, sullen Minnie Mouse. Miss Frida stabbed the picture with her finger, “Juanita had the same costume!” And to the right of Minnie Mouse, I see the object of Miss Frida’s scorn: a tiny, cherubic kindergarten student wearing the exact same outfit, her little face stretched into a wide, gap-toothed smile. Miss Frida slid the pad of her fingertip over Juanita’s face, hissing: “I’m going to DESTROY her…”
She wasn’t kidding. She said it with all of the bizarre intensity of a soap opera or telenovela star. I wanted to laugh, but at the same time I was surprised she had carried a grudge that long. It was already December.
“Frida! It’s only a costume!”
Startled, Miss Frida looked up, squinting her eyes with a menacing glare…and then she looked away dramatically.
I didn’t take the sinister tone of this too seriously, since she was scratching her butt as she said it, but still…
Another time, a parade of those same pie-faced sweeties passed us in the hallway, chirping their hellos to Miss Frida: “Hola Frida! Hola! Hola! Frida! Frida!”
Miss Frida was quite pleased at this, and beamed at them like a queen. Then she proceeded to threaten them in Spanish. My Spanish isn’t very good at all, but I’m pretty sure I caught “monster,” “going to get you,” and “tonight.” Alarmed, the little chicks became very quiet, their eyes growing as wide as saucers as they watched her make claws with her hands. ROWRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!! Miss Frida growled, sending the little chicks scattering. This made Miss Frida even more pleased, as a deliciously evil smile crept across her face.
I sighed, “Oh Miss Frida….”
* TO BE CONTINUED *