One of the things that Montessori children take off the
shelves is called “Boxes and Bottles.” They take a container off of the
shelf and inside the container, there are other containers called boxes and
bottles, that the children must learn how to open and close. Some of the
containers used to hold perfume. Others used to hold lip gloss, or the
oil you put on your skin after ripping off your pubic hair with wax.
Now all of the containers are empty. The children must figure out how to remove the lids. And how to put the lids back on. Sometimes the lids fall down onto the floor and it is somewhat exciting. Sometimes they drop them onto the floor on purpose, but they pretend that it was an accident.
One of the containers in “Boxes and Bottles” is tiny, ceramic, and oval-shaped. Probably it used to hold earrings, or some other jewelery. On one side, there is a hinge. When you open it, there are two ovals side by side, and it looks like a bum. It took me several weeks to figure this out. The children figured it out in about thirty seconds.
Bonobo Bum. Not exactly like Bumster, but worth looking at. It's like a
flower bum. The children would definitely like it.
The children call Bumster by picking up little puzzle map pieces, pieces of Africa, and holding them up to their ears.
“Hello, Bumster,” they say. “Calling Bumster. Alison pooped her pants.” Or she picked her nose. Alison is sitting in front of the puzzle of Africa. She is giggling uncontrollably. Her underwear is clean. No poop. No toot.
We don’t say fart at Montessori School. It’s a bad, inappropriate word.
One morning, Jacob wasn’t being careful with his boxes and his bottles and Bumster crashed onto the floor.
“Oh my gosh,” gasped Leila. “Is Bumster okay?”
Jacob bent over and looked. It seemed as though Bumster had survived unscathed.
“He’s okay,” said Jacob.
“Well, we have to be careful with Bumster,” exclaimed Leila. “We don’t want him to get damaged.
Bumster has a favourite book. It’s an illustrated French dictionary for children, with pictures of apples and forks and monkeys. Everything the children want to know how to say.
There is a certain reverence that takes place amongst the children when someone is working with “Boxes and Bottles.” Bumster’s in the house. Don’t touch that, it’s Bumster’s. Don’t do that. Bumster hates that. Shh, Bumster’s here.
Then one afternoon, Bumster falls again. Leila is busy, sewing a button on a square piece of cloth, or polishing a dog made out of brass. One of Bumster’s oval’s has cracked. Damaged, very badly. Leila doesn’t notice, and Jacob doesn’t care.
“Oh no,” exclaims the Montessori directress, holding Bumster’s two ovals in the palms of her hands. In one palm, Bumster’s oval is intact. In the other, the oval is shattered. My co-worker waits, palms open, in the middle of the room. I watch carefully.
We are both waiting for grief. And a commemorative ceremony. For Bumster. None of the children look up from their work. Then Kate looks up from the wooden beads she is stringing on a thick piece of thread.
“Oh,” she says. “It’s Bum Skirt.”
My co-worker carries Bumster/Bum Skirt and places him in the garbage, full of paper towel that has dried the children’s washed hands. They wash their hands at an unimaginable frequency. Until their knuckles turn red and break open. Bumster rests amongst the towels that dry these raw, red hands.
Bumster or Bum Skirt.
No one knows anymore.
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