Back in 1984, at the beginning of the school year, my kindergarten teacher gave us a note to hand to our parents. It asked them to provide us with a towel to use for our daily afternoon naps. Two years before, my family had moved to a suburb of Orlando from Guadalajara, Mexico. My mother couldn’t speak much English. Her reading skills weren’t so great either. She read the note and thought the towel was for drying our hands. And so, she bought this towel for me. It is just over 2 feet long by 1 1/3 feet wide. She stitched my name on a corner, and I took it to class.
One day, near the end of the school year, my mom came to pick me up early. She came right after lunchtime when my classmates were sprawled out across the air-conditioned classroom, listening to soft lullabies for our naptime. I was curled up on the floor, resting my head on the blue hand towel, while my classmates slept on top of their towels. That’s when my mother realized what it was meant for. She felt awful, seeing my little body resting over the floor.
When we left the classroom, she asked me in Spanish, “Why didn’t you tell me you needed a bigger towel?” My mom told me I looked up at her, then away, before I shrugged and said, “I don’t know. It’s okay.”
Many years later, I still recognize myself in that moment.