Our AP Literature and Language Composition class decided they wanted to be chic-literary. The five young women proposed meeting once a week in a cafe for discussion and libation.
"Can we do this?" Deb asked. "Should we do this?" we both asked. "What will we call it? It needs a good name."
I turned to my limited French language knowledge. "Soiree. An intellectual, social, gathering."
The girls loved it and with administration permission, the weekly practice, Soiree cafe, began.
I was invited to the first meeting, a little cautious that real work wouldn't happen, but after the girls ordered hot chocolate or a sweet, they settled down into their copies of Letters from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King. They had fastidiously annotated the work and knew it well. I was impressed. Perhaps this would work.
The first time I took the class to soiree cafe, we chose The Vanilla Bean. Normally, the shop opens after AP Lit but today was A Friday and AP starts a half hour later on this half school day.
I was pretty excited to walk into the bakery/cafe. Many years ago, my friend Michelle had had a dream. She wanted to be a baker in her own shop and she was going to call the shop, The Little Red Hen.
My husband and daughter, alone one weekend had gone to dinner and decided to stop at a new establishment that served iced hot chocolate. Michelle greeted them. Her dream had come true.
When Michelle greeted the girls and me, one of the first questions I asked was, "Why didn't you name it the Little Red Hen?" Somehow, the name hadn't worked and Vanilla Bean did.
The display case was full of scrumptious. Recipes saved and savored from Michelle's grandmother were created in cookies, bars, and cakes. Chocolate croissants once a week. I wanted to taste everything.
Each student chose an item: a bottled drink, hot chocolate and ice cream. Ice cream at 10:00a.m?
I was reminded I was in the company of teenagers.
That morning, the girls pulled out their reading reflections and Cormac McCarthy's The Road. They'd read deeply, thought deeply, and now we deeply discussed the complexity of a well written American novel. As we sat in a sunny window, Michelle in the background fulfilling her dream, I somewhat realized another dream I'd never really articulated: a teacher, her pupils, engaged in the language, the study of syntax, the specific analysis of the creation of a sentence with such power--students who were at the beginning journey of a life long love for literature.