I offered to drop Eli off at school on my way into Cambridge this morning. As we got closer to the high school, right around the time of the first bell, activity intensified: cars, bikes, crossing guards, pedestrians, teens, teachers. As we were stopped at an intersection, a student crossed it diagonally. Tall, slight, curly-haired, and hunched under the weight of his pack, he continuously blinked, grimaced, and adjusted his head on his neck as he made his way across, as though the sun and the concrete world were just too much for him and intruded on his private musings.
“Look at that funny kid,” I said to Eli, and I pointed.
“Yeah, I noticed him,” he replied.
“Someday he’s going to be one of those absent-minded professors,” I said.
Eli paused. He smiled. “And yet, his students won’t not like him.”
I knew what he meant. “He’ll be both. You’re right.”
And on my way to work, alone in the car, I thought about being a student and, along with my friends, loving our funny, weird, and quirky teachers and, as a way to show how much we had studied the objects of our affection, performing for each other our elaborate impersonations of the well-loved teachers’ mannerisms. We would laugh, and the laughter was never mean-spirited. It was gleeful, buoyant, and conveyed recognition. And I dare say the impersonations and laughter knit us together, too.