Gracie and Bridget have been working on memorizing patriotic poems this month for school. They have to be a certain length by grade level, which was far easier to figure out for Gracie than Bridget, but in the end they both had the perfect poem: The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus for Gracie, and a little poem I found on Pinterest from the 1930s called Little American Citizens by Annette Wynne. It's been a fun thing to work on with them at home, as there is value in memorizing poetry—something people don't do much anymore.
Gracie was especially nervous last night after gym as she practiced in the Statue of Liberty costume she wanted to wear but was having second thoughts about at the last minute. Robes, torch, and crown in place, she needed a book to hold; she went straight to the bookshelves in our bedroom and grabbed one of Old Grandpa's books, from his collection of fancy Reader's Digest versions of classics with gold foil titles. I started to say "no, no, not one of those...." but then I stopped myself, imagining the eye-rolling I would have received from Old Grandpa had he heard me describe one of his books as too precious to take to school. Book in arm, she recited the poem one last time, just at the right pace, just at the right volume.
This morning she was even more nervous. Boys would laugh at her in the costume. She would forget the words. She didn't want people looking at her. We talked about what one of her dear life coaches, Wendy, would say about being teased about something she worked hard for and was proud of, and that helped a little. Suddenly it occurred to me that having Old Grandpa's book with her wasn't just a fun part of the costume, though. I told her how Old Grandpa would have loved that she was smart enough and brave enough to successfully prepare this poem to recite, because he was once a speech and debate competitor and loved public speaking and history. Holding that book in her arm? It might not help her remember all the lines at the right time, but it would be like he was right there with her, cheering her on proudly, like a secret invisible weapon against nerves. That helped a lot.
I don't know how she did yet, because she isn't home yet. But it doesn't matter, really, because today she did a hard thing with her great-grandfather's memory in her heart.