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  • Walking To School

    October 13, 2010

    Hands down, my favorite thing about first grade is walking to school.

    Although I love our car time, it’s really nice to not have to get in the car of a morning as we have for the past several years.  Seeing the world through the car window is one thing, but being able to stop and examine a spider web or a willy worm or the perfect yellow leaf is a deeper richer experience that engages all of the senses and not just the eyes.  And what I especially admire about Sean is that he always seems to be tapped into the sensory data.  He has an acute awareness of that which is invisible to most.  The other day as we walked under the trees that line the sidewalk, he turned to me and said, “Mom, I just love the sound of leaves crunching underfoot, don’t you?”  Indeed, I do now.

    Most days, AD will join Sean and me on our half-mile walk to school.  There are a few other families in the neighborhood who walk to school occasionally, but for the most part we have the sidewalk to ourselves.

    When I was growing up, I never had the sidewalk to myself.  Everyone walked to school and there were plenty of us.  No one’s mom drove them to school.  No one’s mom or (gasp!) dad walked them to school.  Mom kicked us out the door, sometimes before the sun was even up, rain or shine, sleet or snow, and we joined up with the passing human train of children heading south towards school.  The older boys, who were too cool to walk, rode their bikes.  They would blaze up behind us hollering something like, “Watch out! No breaks!”  All the girls would scream and scramble off the sidewalk just before they slammed on their brakes leaving behind a screeching black skid mark three-feet long.  Then they would ride off laughing and popping wheelies with smug satisfaction.

    After the long, long, very long walk to the end of the street, about 200 yards, we would have to cross a busy two-lane road. Sometimes there was a crossing guard, but usually not.  We were street-savvy Catholic school kids though, so if there wasn’t a car within 20-feet either direction, or if we didn’t think they were coming too fast, we’d bolt across.

    Beyond the busy road lies a set of train tracks.  About 85% of the time, a train would be sitting on the tracks.  Just sitting.  So then a decision had to be made: Would it be better to risk death by crawling under the train or risk the wrath of Sister Mary Somebody for being late.  Always, we crawled under the train.  If you got your shoe caught on the track and got your leg cut off, as legend had it had happened to some girl whose name no one ever knew, then at least you’d have a good excuse and you could be certain that even Sister probably wouldn’t whack the hands of an amputee.

    Once you made it past the train tracks, then came real danger.  Then you had to walk past a rat hole of a doughnut shop.  And my oh my, the smell of fresh baked doughnuts on a cold Midwest morning could lead a girl into temptation.  I never had the 20 cents it took to buy a doughnut and therefore never had any hope of getting a doughnut, but my saliva glands never gave up hope.  To make matters more unjust, my brother Jim who always seemed to have money, would get one.  I’d see his bike leaned up against the building and when I looked in the windows, sure enough there he’d be sitting at the counter eating a doughnut.

    On the walk home from school, we’d go the reverse route; past the doughnut shop, across the busy road and under the train, but on the way back we’d traverse a fairly steep ditch just on the other side of the tracks.  The ditch was home to unsavory creatures like chiggers and cockle burs that would stick to your socks and shoe laces.  On the other side of the ditch was an old-timey garage that had a Dr. Pepper machine inside and one of those 10-2-4 signs.  Sometimes four or five of us would manage to scrape up 15 cents among us and we’d go in and buy an Orange Nehi or a Dr. Pepper out of the soda machine.  And when the cap was popped, oh the sound!  ChhSsshAAAaaah! — the sound of impending pleasure.  The bottle would come out of the machine so cold that it had frost on the outside and the soda was actually icy.  We’d each take a swig and I have to tell you, to this day, it remains the coldest most refreshing thing I could ever hope to put to my lips.

    So yes, at the root of my love of walking to school is my own nostalgia.  I walked to school for eight years and have mostly fond memories.  And I want that for Sean. Of course his memories will be quite different, safer and more sanitary hopefully, but they will be his own.

    My hope is that the memory of the three of us walking to school will burrow somewhere deep into his brain and return to warm his heart long after my bones have returned to the earth.  And maybe when he thinks back on these days of walking to school he will be reminded not just of the how the leaves crunched underfoot or of some silly or dangerous thing he did, but how much his mommy and daddy delighted in him.

    * * * * *

    Another walking home story, this one involving a pumpkin.

    Hair

    October 7, 2010

    The other day, I had had enough of my hair. I have a lot of it and none of it good.

    Now I know that I won’t get much sympathy from many of you for having more than my fair share of hair, but with every blessing comes a burden. And the burden of having so much hair, besides that it is hot is that blow drying it requires time and skill that I do not possess.  If I could take back all the hours I’ve spent blow drying my hair, I could learn another language, even one of those hard ones that don’t have any vowels.

    And let me tell you, aging does not make hair more lovely.  Gray hair, even colored gray hair, has a texture all its own, a texture that says “estrogen on the decline, downhill from here”.

    There are a few older women who can wear long hair, but not many.  In my opinion, a woman of a certain age sporting long hair (or a mini-skirt or a midriff top) looks like she’s trying too hard to hang on to her long-gone youth and there’s nothing pretty about that.  Beauty should look effortless — even if it’s not.

    So the other day, I had had enough of the hair and the ponytail holders and the barrettes.  Being the impulsive person that I am, I called the salon and asked if there was anyone there who could cut my hair in the next 15 minutes.  There was, so I went and they did.  And when I left the salon, I was very happy to be rid of the hair.  I liked my haircut.  I liked it a lot.  I felt 10 years younger and 10 pounds lighter.  I whistled as I skipped to my car.  (My mom just emailed to say that she went and got her hair cut and felt ten years younger so she went back and got another haircut the next day.)

    When I got home, I ran upstairs to show my new haircut to AD, and being a learned man in the fine art of marriage, he diplomatically said, “Oh! Look at you! You got your hair cut!”  I gleefully shook my head from side to side so he could see how I could make my hair twirl out like skirt.  One side fell across one eye in a sexy Veronica Lake sort of way.  Clearly he was mesmerized by my new haircut.  He said he had never seen such beauty in all of his life. No not really. What he actually said was, “I gotta get back to work now.”

    Undaunted, I bounced downstairs and took a picture of me and my sassy new haircut and I emailed it to my mother who loves short hair and has never missed one single opportunity since 1973 to tell me how me how much better she thinks I look in short hair.  So I asked her, “What do you think of my new haircut?!”  She quickly replied, and I quote, “I don’t know.”

    Okay then.

    Later that afternoon, as I walked up to the school to pick up Sean, I enjoyed the sensation of the cool breeze on my neck and my bouncin’ and behavin’ hair.  As I started to cross the street, my friend Jennifer pulled up in her car.  She rolled down the window and exclaimed, and I quote, “What happened to you?”

    Hmmm.  I’m starting to get the idea that no one likes my haircut.  Luckily for me I don’t care because I am unofficially 10 years younger and 10 pounds lighter.  And besides, I can twirl my hair out like a skirt if I want to.

    When I dropped Sean off at school that morning I had long hair, but now I had short hair and I wondered how he would react.  Much like his father, he does not dig change.  As he ran out of the school doors, he spotted me and his face lit up. He ran to me, buried his face in my tummy and wrapped his arms around me.  “I like your new haircut Mom!” he exclaimed.  “You look really cute!”  God I love that boy.  Kids are so honest.

    The next morning, after breakfast, Sean and AD sat at the table working on vocabulary words.  One of the words on the list was adorable.  Using the word in a sentence, Sean said, “I love Mommy. She looks adorable.”  God I love that boy.

    So off we went to school; AD, Sean and his vocabulary words, and me and my new haircut.  Sean’s teacher said she liked my haircut and the crossing guard said she thought my hair was cute.  If you can’t trust the opinion of the 1st grade teacher and the crossing guard, who can you trust?

    On the way back home, I mentioned this to AD.  And in a dangerous move, I asked him point blank:  Do you like my new haircut?  He said, and I quote, “It’s growing on me.”

    “I have to tell you something,” he said hesitantly, “but you have to promise it won’t hurt your feelings.”

    So I braced myself to have my feelings hurt.

    “This morning, after Sean used the word adorable in a sentence? He whispered in my ear that he didn’t really like your haircut but he didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

    God I love that boy.

    And I love my new haircut.

    * * *

    More on Antique Mommy’s hair here: The Bob is the New Helmet Hair

    Danaus Plexippus

    October 4, 2010

    Photobucket

    Monarch sounds much prettier, don’t you think?