You might as well know it, and frankly I don’t know how it happened, but it seems I’m surrounded by those bastions of education, otherwise known as public schools. To the west, east, south and north, they’ve honed in on me like nobody’s business. I won’t even regale you with the traffic I must repeatedly suffer through each morning as parents slow down to drop their kids off at school, often not bothering to pull over to the curb. It’s ghastly. I have a small window of opportunity, about 15 minutes to be exact, in which I can get in the car and make a mad dash for work, but if I miss it, I’m toast. I might as well throw in the towel.
To give you a better picture, I have a K-4 elementary school that is catty-corner to where I live, a middle school two blocks to the south, a high school about four blocks to my north and another school, just for 5th and 6th graders, is due west of me, somewhere between the public library and the recreation center. Which was all well and good when my own kids were still in school, because you couldn’t beat the convenience, Lord knows.
Well, these schools are constant reminders of what I no longer have: young children to see off to school each morning. Little kids who need me to pack them a lunch, help them with their homework, or help them memorize their lines for a play about the California Gold Rush days.
Yes, these educational institutions are symbols of all I once did and no longer have to do. Like provide assistance in creating a model of one of the California missions or fashion a doll to look like an historic figure such as Louisa May Alcott, who was once my daughter’s choice for the project.
Alas, no longer do I have to buy all the supplies needed for the first day of school or for sixth grade camp, for that matter. And I certainly don’t need to make sure my daughter makes it on time to her after-school gymnastics, Hebrew School or Girl Scout meetings.
The high school’s presence reminds me that I no longer need to help my son create a scrapbook album of his favorite author, James Ellroy (“The Black Dahlia,” “L.A. Confidential”), who shocked us all one day by phoning my son in response to a letter he’d written the best-selling author as part of his school project. Oh, and I no longer have to help edit his homework.
And while I’m at it, I no longer receive invitations to see the annual End-of-Year Party for families, that’s the social event of the school year, replete with lip-sync performances, crafts and hearty eats. Nor do I get notices that the Scholastic Book Fair is coming to town, allowing me the enjoyment of watching my kids eyes widen with delight as we peruse the selection of books. Those days are over.
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears…”
But there’s one thing I still have, and that’s my memories. For as I walk Henry and Oliver to the park, and pass the elementary school that my daughter once attended, I am overcome with a flood of memories. Hearing the cries and peals of laughter from the children playing outside on the blacktop, I close my eyes and pretend I hear my daughter’s laugh among them. She is there once again, making a joyful noise, immersed as she is in play with her friends, running and skipping about.
In this moment, I can hear the youthful voices loud and clear. The children who are there now, and the children who were there before them, are all there once again. My daughter, my son. Perhaps your child, too. For as long as these schools surround me, they will be there. In my heart, remaining forever young.