Oh, my God, on a gorgeous May morning like this, please help students of all ages who don’t want to study. Lord, help us teachers, who want to play hooky even more. And OMG, please grant us another sunny day soon, when school’s out, when we can all go outside and play.
Is there anything more fun than sneaking a walk when you should be hard at work?
Perhaps balancing the national budget, achieving world peace and losing four dress sizes rank above it. None of these, however, appear imminent. So I pilfer little thrills, like kernels of candy corn, when I can.
Autumn’s tawny, sun-freckled face grins from every yard and field, a mischievous TP-er who messes with trees so we have to clean up many-hued clutter. Scraggly flowers, survivors with colorful personalities, mix well with show-off mums. Ragged, brown corn and soybeans look weathered and friendly as smiling scarecrows that guard small-town yards and grocery store produce sections.
Al mellow and unhurried. Autumn urges me to enjoy its relaxed aura while I can.
However, calling my husband to spring me from jail isn’t the best way to celebrate fall. Forcing my steps past, I promise myself a trip to an orchard.
Squirrels, sociopathic larcenists, don’t worry about raising bail. They freely steal fruit, walnuts and acorns, which they hide in my flower pots—their personal storage units. Fall squirrels are like spring dandelions, fluffy and cute. I love both … in other people’s yards.
All paths lead to the elementary school, easily evidenced by a trail of kid stuff: a flattened baseball hat; a pink bicycle abandoned near a stop sign; a plain strawberry Pop-Tart®, no doubt rejected because someone wanted frosted chocolate with sprinkles. Scholarly endeavors are verified by broken pencils and crinkled homework. How long has this rain-faded permission slip lain here?
Rows of cars at the school speak of the commitment of teachers, administrators and staff. I pray for them, as the place — even when recess is not in session — emits energy unmatched by Hoover Dam turbines.
Ditto for Taylor University. A substantial portion of its science building’s energy needs are supplied by geothermal, solar and wind power. However, the pulsating between-class rhythm of skateboarders, scooter-riders, cyclists and joggers who don’t even notice they’re jogging prompts another energy question: Couldn’t the remainder be supplied by students, who regard midnight as the start of prime time?
I seek quieter streets, where I can saunter, unmolested by the vigorous and motivated.
Instead, yards teem with home improvement projects, and on the town’s outskirts, farmers driving giant combines lumber into fields, braving clouds of chaff. All strive to complete their tasks before cold weather.
In the face of so much diligence, goofing off is downright tough. I head for home.
But that doesn’t mean autumn and I won’t try to play hooky tomorrow. …
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite goof-off season, and why?
Empty nesters like me have forgotten the, er, thrill of the first-day-of-school drill, right?
I may forget where I left my car … in my garage, because I walked to the store.
But I still can feel Mom brushing my hair into a tight ponytail that relocated my eyes. Before the bus arrived, she asked if I’d changed my underwear, then hugged me goodbye.
Clutching a box of unbroken crayons, I entered a classroom that smelled of chalk dust and my teacher’s flowery perfume.
We were issued information cards to give our parents. I could read and knew my address and phone number. One blank, however, stumped me.
After school, I asked Mom, “What’s sex?”
She straightened. “Honey, where did you hear about sex?”
“It’s on the cards—”
“The school cards.” I handed her mine.
Why did she chuckle? “The school wants to know if you’re a girl or boy.”
“I’m a girl!” Mystery solved. I felt immense relief.
She probably felt more.
Fast-forward 25 years. My eldest, starting kindergarten, also knew how to read. We had practiced our address and phone number. I had instructed her about sex blanks.
She donned her Strawberry Shortcake backpack. I plunked my toddler into a stroller.
The school, though located across the street, seemed a world away.
“Time to go,” I said brightly.
“I want to go by myself.”
My heart shriveled. “But—but—all the other mothers get to come.”
“I don’t want you to come.”
“You might get lost!”
“We visited my room. Two whole times.”
How had she mastered a teenage eye-roll? “Uh—”
She looked carefully both ways and crossed the street. But at the school’s entrance, she paused.
She needed me! To my two-year-old’s delight, the stroller and I galloped madly toward the school.
But my kindergartener had disappeared.
Now I paused, chewiing my nails. Should I risk another eye-roll?
Instead, I slunk home and suffered. Had my child indeed found her classroom?
Or had aliens abducted her?
When the school’s dismissal bell rang, the sight of the familiar little figure saved my life. “How was school?”
“Okay. But I didn’t like the cookies.”
She’d found her room! She’d filled out her information card herself. She knew her sex.
But she had balked at the teacher’s listing her race as white. “I told her you said I was pinky-beige.” My daughter groused, “She put a ‘W’ in the blank anyway!”
Apparently, my child had taken our racial discussions to heart. …
Ah, the first day of school. I may be a spectator now, but I haven’t forgotten the thrill of the drill.
As if I ever could.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What first-day-of-school memory stands out for you?
I’m excited, though now I’m a spectator. When convoys of buses and SUVs queue up in front of schools and the local parade of backpack-carrying children and stroller-pushing mothers march past, I feel like throwing confetti.
But a crazy lady, hopping up and down, yelling her head off, might scare the kids. Instead, I offer a silent, heartfelt prayer. (That’s still legal, isn’t it?)
Thank you for this opportunity for thousands of children to gain an education.
Many parents wondered if they and their offspring would live to see this day.
The back-to-school sales proved rugged tests. Brave mothers mediated arguments about who-gets-what that made Middle East diplomacy seem easy. Girls tried on 51 pairs of jeans, alternating cell phone consultations with their friends and their parents’ bankers. Little brothers suffered untold anguish when forced to accompany families to Intimate Departments.
By registration, some parents considered mortgaging their organs.
Thank you, Father, for talking them out of it. Thank You for never taking vacations during August, but remaining on the job to help everyone start the school year right.
This first morning hasn’t been easy, though kids jumped out of bed like kangaroos. Showers commenced with a minimum of hot-water controversy. The second-grader even used soap. But the middle-schooler discovered her first zit, and the teen, having spent four hours battling a bad hair day, had to be chained in the SUV.
Earplugs were distributed because of weeping and wailing.
Not the teen’s. The mom’s, because she was sending her youngest to kindergarten.
Who has experienced all of the above, plus planning lessons, decorating and attending group therapy sessions? Teachers, who wonder if their salaries will cover 963 boxes of Kleenex during flu season.
Yet You, Lord, have brought them all to this special morning.
Thanks for Your promise to be with everyone in coming days. New tennis shoes will blacken—by day two. Homework will be eaten by hungry dogs and sneaky computers. Trumpets will be forgotten/broken/hidden, or all of the above. Lesson plans that should soar will crash and burn. Taxi moms will handle schedules that defy the skills of an O’Hare International Airport flight controller.
Amid all these, You are there, Lord—the Father and Teacher of millions. Even recess duty is not beyond Your love and expertise.
You once were a student, so You know exactly how the first day of school feels. The second. And the one-hundred-third.
So as the back-to-school parade marches by, we know You — Who are immortal and invisible — jump for joy on the curb, throwing confetti. Please bless these students, parents, teachers and staff, and give them their best year ever. Amen.
What is your prayer for the coming school year?