By Ashley Lodato
I’m not typically one to read much symbolism into things, but when Eric Burr told me that the valley’s first wildflowers — spring beauty, yellow bells, buttercups — were spotted on March 31 this year, I couldn’t help but think that they were, in some cosmic way, related to Rayma Hayes passing away just days before. That’s how I’d like to remember the sequence at least: Rayma’s death ushering in the bright and colorful promise of spring, another growing season, and the inevitability of the cycle of life.
When I first worked with Rayma on the 2007 Little Star Montessori School auction, she was still teaching full-time in kindergarten. Even back then she used to tell us that when she couldn’t teach full-time anymore she’d cut back to part-time, and then when that was no longer possible she’d just have her husband, John, wheel her up to the toddler class, where she’d join the little people in their Montessori activities. “When the teachers change the toddlers’ diapers,” Rayma would say, a bright smile lighting her face, “they can just change my diapers as well.”
Rayma joked about eating baby food, losing teeth, and crawling around on the floor with the toddlers. It was all in jest, of course, but the perfect symmetry of this arrangement wasn’t hard to imagine, partly because it presented a Little Star that gave another generation of students access to Rayma. Now it’s an even more poignant image, as we all feel cheated out of Rayma’s final chapter.
Rayma taught my daughters about the power of choices. When Wyatt (now 12) and Leki (now 10) were small, they liked to play a mama and baby game. Wyatt always wanted to be the mama and wanted Leki to be the baby. But Leki didn’t always want to be the baby, and would get mad and refuse to play. Then a fight would ensue and both kids would be in tears.
My husband and I eventually mentioned this conflict to Rayma, and Rayma reminded Wyatt to give Leki choices. “People always respond better to choices than to orders,” Rayma told Wyatt.
So the next time the kids were starting to play mama and baby, we reminded Wyatt to give Leki some choices, not just command her to be the baby. Wyatt, then 4 years, thought for a moment and then said “Leki, would you rather be the baby or get hit?” Ah yes, choices.