As some people know, I grew up in the boondocks, the mountains, what we affectionately called “BFE” when out of adult earshot. School buses and big indoor schools with stone steps and cafeterias were the providence of movies and Beverly Hills 90210. Walking to school? Something people did in the 50’s.
And now that we are parents of a child attending our “neighborhood school,” the fact that we can walk to school makes me channel my inner Brenda Walsh, or maybe the Beave.
It turns out it’s about a ten minute walk to kindergarten from our house. In most cases, walking is faster than getting caught-up in the traffic surrounding our K through 12 trifecta of academic institutions. We are slowly increasing Nate’s endurance on these morning excursions, however some days can be quite challenging as he decides to examine and question every snail, rock, and bush along the way. There may also be a story or two of him sitting down in the middle of the sidewalk and refusing to budge.
I’ve had fairly good luck, in my limited once a week experience, with Nate’s self-proclaimed Fast Poke identity. He yells, “I’m Fast Poke!” and then races from tree to tree, pausing for short breaks. He came up with that on his own by the way…
Going back to the very first day of kindergarten, it was my job to get Jakey dressed and to walk with him to his first day of school, just the two of us.
I had already spent quite a bit of time socializing and pre-selling the required uniform. Over his lifetime, I have only intermittently achieved success on getting him to wear anything other than a t-shirt. Short-sleeved polo shirts were a stretch goal.
That morning, the first day jitters set in and what had seemed to be an easy, agreeable sell a week prior was now inciting the start of a morning meltdown. Dad swooped in and somehow Jake decided that he preferred the white polo shirt over green (his favorite color). Plus he had to have it buttoned-up all the way to the top.
Jacob and I then walk to school hand-in-hand, and it is magically special. A day I will never forget. It’s still warm, but the crisp feeling of fall is already in the air. I look down at him with his big-boy polo shirt buttoned up to the top, and his navy shorts that are too big and cinched tightly by the adjustable elastic waistband. He has his shirt tucked in, possibly for the first time, and his backpack on, loaded down with his new Wild Kratts lunch bag. He looks like a little boy in his big boy uniform. He doesn’t even mind when I comb his hair down at school. And he isn’t the slightest bit hesitant to hold my hand or to give me hugs and kisses goodbye.
I hold it together pretty well, until we get to the crosswalk. The distinguished man in his crossing guard uniform, his aviator sunglasses, and his ear-piercing police whistle stops traffic for us. He looks at us and you can just see his appreciative smile. He knows we’re new. Just the nod of his head, acknowleding this tiny, almost imperceptible moment in our lives as the milestone that it is. I think I see him wink.
Tears well-up in my throat and I know, this is a moment I will never forget. Today it’s a crosswalk; tomorrow it’s an aisle. Our lives move at such an astonishing pace.
Slow down Fast Poke. Slow down.
First day of kindergarten: August 13, 2014