"Nicholas Gilbert began his journey to Diablo Valley Montessori in 2002 when his family followed a favorite teacher from a school that was closing in Moraga. Her name was Lani, and Manmeet was one of his teachers there also.
Then he came to Jenny and Lani's class and he was there one year, then to Shirley, Jessica, and Moni's class in 2003-4 until he left us in what I now term unforgettable November. All totaled Nicholas spent almost 480 hours at Diablo Valley Montessori. He came when Sheila could part from him (always late, but now considered heavenly minutes), but I had late quality time with him as mom rarely arrived until 6:00PM or after.
Children left long periods of time are considered typical students, especially in the Montessori framework. After everyone left, our practical life activities included sweeping, turning off lights, putting away snacks and drying dishes. After all chores were done, he liked to watch Bill Cosby's Little Bill-loving Alice the Great Grandmother who had so much respect on that show and laughing our sides out at Elephant, Bills little hamster.
One episode concerned, ironically, a visit to the hospital. Also ironically, this was his favorite. It had a Hip Hop rock that said, "I broke my arm, it hurts so bad, gotta go to hospital" with all the correct gyrating movements of a good Hip Hopper. He loved that song and would parade around the rug (often with me in tow) chanting those words. I haven't watched Little Bill since November 04.
He was an excellent student, once he could stop being social-and was well on his way to solid academic work before his arm hurt. All of his teachers fell in love with him and in our role at Montessori, this is easy to do with each child. From the time a little one, from 3 months to 5 years is admitted, they are welcomed both socially, spiritually and physically.
Early in the Toddler Class he showed unusual friendly welcoming skills. He wanted to know each name of any adult or child coming through the door and would remember it the next time he saw them.
He was a physical child and loved to run and climb, sandbox play, modeling skills, and sit and chat with either the children or teachers. He showed great gross movement skills with kickball and basketball and T-Ball.
As a typical 4 year old, he had his moments-most of them jolly and funny. Take the Popsicle incident. Hearing that Popsicles had been served for a party in Suzette's class, some other mates including brave Ben and Nicholas climbed up on stools, opened the fridge and helped themselves to Popsicles when they were supposed to be simply going pee. Of course, they wore the evidence. Obvious with mouths and lips resembling bright orange and Nicholas was chagrined that he not only had to buy the Popsicles to replace them, but carry them in front of his peers and apologize to Suzette...
One day he had been a bit aggressive with a little girl on a slide. I will never forget as Lamont came, he held Nicholas back from the group to reiterate my request that he never push people down the slide. Lamont had on a brown suit and lovingly had his arm around Nicholas explaining everything. I thought to myself then what special parents Sheila and Lamont were to always support positive attitudes and loving behavior towards others.
He has been my companion, my student, my buddy and my willing listener. As an older person in his life, I have shared more of my life with him as a kid then I have any other child because we have had such alone times-which now I review as extraordinarily precious.
His favorite story involved the Hawaiian state fish and every time we would come to it in the book, he would take the cue and say it- Humuhumu-nukunuku-a pua a. When he went to Hawaii to swim with the dolphins, he went around impressing everyone there with his Hawaiiana store of knowledge, knowing the state bird, mammal, fish, flower. He knew that Queen Lilliokalani wrote Aloha Oe and the circumstances under which she was tested writing that song at Iolani Palace.
At a luau, one of my favorite pictures is Nicholas looking at a petite Tahitian dancer as she is wearing the most amazing coconuts on top. I've seen those before, but never in a coconut.
His favorite friends were Brandon, Amanda, Jessica, Kierra and Teddy. Teddy was his host on nights this past year when he came into his old Montessori classroom and we had night school. He went right back to materials he had used and was open and willing to re-learn ones he had forgotten. He was becoming a perfectionist. If it wasn't right, he would erase it. Joining the other 2 at snack table was bit of what it was like before, and Lamont and Sheila wisely pulled away and just let him enjoy himself.
These children were amongst many who adored and loved Nicholas. Now they will never forget him, as one always remembers going through a first leaving. At our luau on Sunday, we will have a huge picture of Nicholas in Silhouette against a Hawaiian sunset sky. Whether we remember his smile, his fabulous sense of humor and monkey-boy-ness, his lovingness and helpfulness to others, he had it all wrapped up in one.
We were lucky the other school closed and that Lani motivated the family to bring him to us. Those almost 500 hours with us were extraordinary and I now read a cute story:
I wanted to share the story that Sheila told me about her Mothers Night experience a few years back. Sheila overheard a mother shushing her little boy. He seemed to be trying to say something important. Sheila couldn't help overhearing, and breaking out in laughter, when she heard the boy point at Nicholas and say, "Look at him, his mommy is white and his daddy is blue!"-Author unknown."
I now share Lanis thoughts about Nicholas:
"Unforgettable Nicholas-He would ask every person who came through the door what their name was, never had to ask twice and always remembered and greeted them by name everyday.
The teachers at that school would come into my classroom in the morning just to look at and talk to this beautiful, precocious child.
Somehow I know Nicholas is standing beside St. Peter at the gate to Heaven greeting each newcomer, and he already knows their name. Lovingly, Your Teacher-Miss Lani"