David is in my morning class. He’s a 17-year-old Puerto Rican graffiti artist. He’s funny and smart and very cute, spends all of his time a) drawing, b) drawing, c) wrapped around Julissa, his 16-year-old girlfriend who is also in my class.
A few weeks ago, he finished his work a little faster than everyone else at his table. Instead of texting or drawing, he made a paper crane. I noticed and complimented his work, so he gave it to me.
About a week later, groups were doing some graph work. I had put out sheets of chart paper so they could put their work up on the walls. David asked for an extra sheet of paper … and made a much bigger paper crane. He wrote my name on its wings and gave me that one, too. I had put the first crane on the shelf above my desk, so I put the big crane on the shelf above the first one.
Fast forward another week and the bulletin boards in the hallway were being cleared. One was covered in a giant sheet of lavender paper, a 4′ x 6′ sheet of lavender paper. I took it before it could be crumpled and thrown out. I brought it back into the classroom and lay it on the table in front of David with a flourish.
“What do you think you can do with this?” I asked.
“Stacie, are you challenging me to make a huge paper crane?”
“Me? I’m just putting this paper down.”
“I’m going to do it. This is going to be great.” He stood and started measuring the paper to make it square. “Maybe this will be the biggest paper crane ever made!” (I love David’s enthusiasm, but his wouldn’t be the biggest. The kids here made a bigger one … and then there’s the world record holder. Julissa Googled on her phone and found these answers for us.)
He got to work with a big smile. He was talking himself through this process under his breath, going slowly so he could get the folds right. I pretended to be focusing on other classroom things while he worked. His little muttered instructions kept going and then he kind of chuckled and shook his head.
“I love paper cranes,” he said, still talking only to himself. “Where would my life be without paper cranes?”
If I didn’t already find David completely adorable, he would have won my heart in that moment. My lavender crane — because of course he gave it to me when he was finally done — is great. It has a four-foot wing span and is the crowning glory on top of my office shelf.
While David was working, Julissa took another sheet of paper and made an origami box. When he finished his crane, David marveled at the box.
“This is huge. You could store stuff in here.”
“Well, it would have to be really light weight, since the box is made of paper.”
“I’m taking this home. I’m going to fill it with cranes!”
Where would his life be without paper cranes? What 17-year-old boy says things like that? Where would his life be without them? What does that mean to him? What does he get from paper cranes? Who is the person I need to thank for teaching him to make those cranes?