MAYA’s NOTEBOOK: Kids of Gilbert Park


Do you hate taking notes in class? Get this: Thomas Edison wrote about 13 MILLION pages of notes in his lifetime! In fact, hand-written notes and notebooks from people like Charles Darwin and Leonardo da Vinci are so important, we’ve preserved them in museums and archives!

Of course, you might think notebooks are outdated. Some of the S.P.I.R.I.T. kids would agree. Matt likes to use a tape recorder. Agnes her tablet. And Hans says he keeps everything in his brain (but I think he just relies on his sister’s notes). Maya, however, still believes in the power of the notebook! To show you how cool Maya’s notebook is, she’s opening it up for the very first time to share a rather creepy, personal story with you.

For more than a year, everyday after school, I waited in Gilbert Park for my brother Arjun. He went to the high school on the opposite side of the park. My school was just a couple of blocks away, so I waited for him at the park so we could walk home together. I sometimes sat and drew the high school, which kind of looks like an old fort.

Gilbert Park has a basketball court with net-less rims, a baseball field with a rusty backstop, a jungle gym, two swing sets, a little kid’s sandbox, and a bunch of  picnic tables. Two paths with benches cut across the park like a giant plus sign, splitting the park into four squares. Each bench in the park has a small dedication on it, like “Dedicated to the Memory of  Donald J. Morgan, Jr.” I usually sat on a bench near where the two paths meet in the middle. It was one of my favorite places to sit and draw.

The same group of kids were always in the park. In the fall the boys played football and the girls hopscotch. Sometimes they all played four-square together. In the winter they had snowball fights. In the spring they played baseball and kickball, and also four-square. Then, of course, there was the sad girl.

The kids never invited her to play. They never even said hello to her. It was like she was invisible. The kids didn’t talk to me either, but I didn’t mind. I enjoyed my quiet drawing time. The sad girl, though, just walked around by herself, staring up at the high school as if waiting for someone to come out. I could tell she was younger than the rest of the kids. Sometimes I noticed some of the girls staring at her while whispering and giggling.

Then, one day, as the sad girl walked past, I decided to say — “Hi!”

“I’m Maya,” I said. “What’s your name?”

She nervously pushed her long black hair behind her ears. I made room for her beside me on the bench. “Huan Sung,” she said shyly. I could tell she didn’t speak English very well, which may have been why she had a hard time making friends. I noticed she was fixated on my notebook. “Can I see?” She asked, pointing at it.

I don’t EVER show anyone my notebook. For some reason, though, I wanted to make her smile. So I opened it up and started flipping the pages. And she smiled — a real happy smile!

I was really nervous, but she seemed to like all my stuff. She told me her mother was an artist and an art teacher. I told her I’d love to see her mom’s art some day. That’s when her smile faded.

I realized she said her mom “was” an artist and not “is.” My gut told me her mother probably died, but I wasn’t going to ask her — I just met her! There was an awkward silence for a minute and then she said she had to go. She got up and quickly walked away.

“Who were you talking to?” My brother Arjun asked, gliding over on his skateboard.

“A girl I met named Huan,” I answered.

Arjun looked at me funny. “Um. Okay. Ready? I want to show mom the “A” I got in Mrs. Sung’s class.”

The name shocked me when he said it. “What class is that?” I asked him curiously.

“Art History,” he said, causing my heart to jump. “Mrs. Sung can be really hard. Who knew there was so much to learn about Italian painters?”

I stared at him confused, but didn’t say anything. I closed my notebook and slipped it back into my backpack. When I got up I looked at the bench I was sitting on. I had never looked at the engraving before but for some reason on that day I did. It read:

My book-bag fell off my shoulder! My pens and pencils rolled everywhere!

“Nice one klutz,” my brother said, bending down to pick everything up.

In a panic, I looked up and saw that all the kids had stopped playing. They were just staring at me — like they were seeing me for the first time. Even Huan Sung! She was standing next to the girls playing hopscotch. She looked at me the same way the rest of the kids in the park did — like I was Big Foot or an alien! All the kids’ eyes were glued to me! Every kid in the park was staring. Just staring!

“Arjun?” I finally said terrified. “Why…why are all the kids looking at me like that?”

Arjun stood up and to my horror said, “what kids?”

“The kids playing in the park?” I said terrified.

Arjun spun around and then looked right at me with the same puzzled expression as the rest of the kids. “Are you okay?” He said, with a genuine look of concern. “The only kids in this park are the ones whose names are on the benches. Nobody ever plays here. Park’s always dead.”

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