School’s Out Forever


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.

But now?

FullSizeRender-3Well, 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.

FullSizeRender-1As another school year draws to a close, I realize I’ve graduated from all that. It’s in the past for me.  Or, as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” would say:

“Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
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.

19 thoughts on “School’s Out Forever

  1. I don’t know how I missed this post Monica, it is a perfect one for me.

    I have one moving onto 7th grade and a brand new school, and another going into 5th. We’ve helped with two scrap books – books from the world war II era, done a California Mission, an autobiography, a mobile of a book – Heidi, and a mini year long thesis on a topic of my 6th grader’s choice – Hinduism. Then we traipsed to the library for research, we asked friends in India to bring us an artifact or two, she did a beautiful power point presentation at the end of the year, as we watched on rather proudly. We’ve said good bye, there was a graduation and we’re now looking ahead to middle and high. Oh and there was drama at the school this year – sad in so many ways..
    How lovely that you have so many schools by you, not so lovely with the traffic. The joy though is in the laughter you hear.

    • Thank you, MM. I’m so glad you were able to check out this post. I really did think of you as I wrote it, knowing how much you love your little girls and seem to be as nostalgic and sensitive as me. I feel a connection to you through this post, isn’t that funny? Anyway, now that it’s summer, the traffic isn’t bad at all. I love the summer months because of it. Plus because I work at a university and during the summer there’s plenty of parking!

  2. I actually shed a couple of tears as I read this because I will always miss the first and last day of school and most of the ones that fall in between.
    As a former teacher I miss the excitement of new faces each year. Then at the end of the year the realization that I had helped mold another group of children.
    As a parent of a child, especially one who is no longer here on earth,, I miss all of those days in different ways, Seeing and hearing children laugh and learn . Oh what joy that is.

    • Reading your comment is making me shed some tears. How lovely and also emotional. Please know that I value our teachers tremendously. They are all heroes. You, too. Incidentally, in my effort to edit and shorten my work there’s a passage that I’d written but then omitted. I will share it with you now because I think it most fitting:

      “I hear my daughter’s laugh among the din of the schoolyard. She is there once again, a child filled with hopes and dreams. From a distance, I can see her immersed in play with her friends, running and skipping about, and I am secure in the knowledge that no matter what, the schools will be there to teach them, to mold them, to motivate and inspire them to become upstanding citizens of the world.”

  3. Just think, when you retire you can put a rocker in the front yard and watch all the goings on with either crankiness or delight depending on your mood.

    This was a lovely one Monica. I understand the nostalgia, though I am grateful all our schools are the opposite direction from my drive. ❤

    • Oh, Val, would that I had a front yard with a rocker. How cozy that would be! No, not in California, where space is sparse and everyone lives snugly close. I have a tiny patio with a wall high enough that I’d have to stand on tip toes to see the kids walk by. 😉

    • It is a tribute, truly, to the schools. I really do love having them here (not the traffic, of course), but what the schools represent–knowledge, discovery, curiosity, exploration and building well-rounded citizens of the world. That and so much more! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I know just what you mean. Our house backs on to bush on a hill and each morning we see/hear the children going down to school. And on a still day we can hear them at play. Great memories – yes time does pass quickly and now my grandsons are leaving school.

  5. Monica, if you’re feeling REALLY nostalgic, you can always volunteer at one of these schools, you know! Our schools are always looking for kind-hearted adults to read to the kids, help them with their homework, or serve as a mentor. So don’t fret — some kid out there needs you!

    (But I know just what you mean. Time passes way too fast, and, while it’s nice not having to help make a diorama at the eleventh hour for a kid who has NO IDEA what he wants to depict, it’s a bit sad to see how little we’re needed these days, ha!)

    • I am nostalgic for sure. But I don’t have time to volunteer and that’s the truth. Besides, they’d make me get a tetanus shot or something. Yuck. No, I rather just walk pass and remember the old days when my kids were by my side, going to school and loving spending time with me. Those were the days. Gosh I love them so much. They’re great as adults, mind you, but there’s something to be said for those cuddles. 😉

    • I know, Kim! I love having my kids near me. We were a threesome. Loved spending time with them, and helping them with their homework was part of the deal. I pine for those days.

  6. We have the same problem here with parking outside schools.

    By my house there is a bus stop and there used to be a woman took her three children to school on the bus every day, and they only went one stop! When she stood waiting if she had bothered to look left she would have seen in the middle distance the next stop where she would get off. She often waited longer than it would have taken her to walk.

    I remember my the three schools I went to with mixed memories, in my senior school I remember others who’s actions prevented those who wanted to from learning more, I will never forgive them!

  7. Retired from teaching. I hated school zones too. One time half a dozen teachers including the principal got pulled over a few blocks from the school for speeding. “But we work here. We’re pulling into the parking lot. See look at my sticker….” None of it worked. They all got tickets in front of the whole school with kids cheering in delight !

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