Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finding My Way

This is one of the corners I used to wait to cross the street on my way to school.  It used to be just the yellow line, but now the word "Longfellow" has been added.  Those students who can read can be assured they are going in the right direction. 

When we were in Oak Park last week, I went on some runs around the neighborhood.  I'm not the best runner, but it's the easiest way to exercise while on vacation.  The way I'd keep running is to tell myself I'd just go to a certain spot and then see if I could get to another point.  So I'd head out to Longfellow and run past my friend Sarah's house and think about the Archie comicbooks we used to read at her kitchen table in the afternoons.  I'd turn a corner and head down Jackson and think about the snowball fights we used to have with the kids on the other side of the street.  I remember getting into trouble for having snowball fights on the way to school, and wondering how in the world the teachers knew what we were doing when we weren't in school.

I'd get to Longfellow and see all the kids playing on the playground and realize with a jolt that Hadley and Harper are closer to being in elementary school then I am.  I'd run a little faster to the corner of the school where I think I remember there was a sign hanging for awhile that read "Longfellow Bears."  We voted out our old name, "Longfellow Lightening" and changed it to the "Bears" in 1985 due to the Superbowl Win.  Not a great decision, if you ask me.  You can only do the Superbowl Shuffle for so long.

After Longfellow I head to Percy Julian Junior High (I think it's called Middle School now - sort of like Middle Earth).  I cross Madison and check to see if I can see the Sears Tower, then survey the scene of the school.  The school is on a pretty busy intersection.  There used to be a Chinese restaurant on one corner where we'd get huge eggrolls for a dollar and eat on the way home.  The gas station on another corner is still there. We'd go there on other days and get Charleston Chews.  (This also happens to be the place where I got gas for my car for the first time and thought it only took a gallon to fill it up.)

One day I happened to run past Julian at the time school got out.  Running among middle school girls gives me the willies.  Is there anything scarier then a middle school girl?  I'm not sure there is. But they make me keep running and head over to the high school.  Running around the high school is easy because I have so many memories that make me forget about the running.  I run past the football field and think about my time on the Drill Team. I look at the building's windows and try to remember where my favorite teachers' classrooms were.  I run past the front of the school and remember the MORPS.

This running and thinking starts to tire me out, but I try not to slow down until I get to Celena's house.  It's not her home anymore, but for several years, because of Celena, it was my second home.  Celena introduced me to Chex Mix and showed me how delicious dipping a candy cane in Cool Whip is (her mother didn't think that was so cool, especially since we both had braces).  One warm day in the spring of our Freshman year, we were in front of her house having a water fight with her brother when we heard the ice-cream man come down the street.  We yelled and screamed and raced around trying to scrounge up money.  I think we would've made Eddie Murphy proud.  Just as we saw the ice-cream man pass us by, a limo filled with high school juniors and seniors trailed behind it on their way to the Prom.  Drenched from the water fight, and sticky and sweaty from running around like maniacs, Celena and I stood and watched it go by.  I remember thinking those kids looked so much older then me.  For a minute I was lost in my own little daydream of what Prom would be like, or, whether or not I'd even go, when Celena let out a sigh and said something like, "Well, I think it goes without saying that we look like we're 5."  Celena always knew what to say to snap me out of my seriousness.  She could get me laughing just by walking out of her house with a look on her face that said, "Do I have a story for YOU!"  If I can hope for anything for my girls, it is that they have a friend like Celena. 

So the picture with me and Hadley and Harper standing behind the yellow line is sort of bittersweet for me, I suppose.  On the one hand, it's sweet for me to think that from the ages of 5-11 I stood behind that same line and now here I am with my two girls doing the same thing.  On the other hand, I'm sharing a part of myself that will in turn make a new memory.  So the next time I'm at this intersection, I might think about my memories of walking to school, but I'll also remember that it was a bit of a struggle to take the picture with Hadley and Harper. I can't blame them, the park we were taking them to was right across the street and now Mom wants to take a picture of our feet?  What kind of person does that?

In a British Literature class I took in college, we were talking about a poem by Wordsorth.  I'm ashamed I can't remember which one it is, but the professor was trying to explain to us that the poet is describing something in his life that has stayed the same even though he has changed.  He told us to imagine something like our high school locker, or the table we ate at for breakfast each morning before school.  Over the years, we've grown taller, changed hairstyles maybe, things have happened to us, but those objects have stayed the same.  Those memories we have of standing at our locker, eating breakfast before school, standing behind the yellow line waiting for the crossing guard, define those objects and define a little bit of who we are as well.

So I'm learning that I can share something with my girls and they'll take it and do with it what they will.  I'm also learning that they make they're own observations about things that happen to them.  Hadley told me today while I was finding "Dora the Explorer" computer games that my hands looked "just like Grandpa's hands."  And then she turned around and looked at my face and said, "But your hair and face look just like Tara."  She's making her own meaning out of things around her, and that's good.  I want both of my girls to do that.  I think I'm learning that as a mother, I can't go with them and see what they see.  My parents had to be very brave to let me go and make my own memories, but like me, they probably knew they didn't have a choice in the matter. 

But when it's time for the girls to walk to school, I'll be taking a can of spray paint and marking their path so they know they're travelling in the right direction.

1 comment:

Valerie said...

Great post. I should go back and wander around Walnut and the grade school. Haven't been there in a long time. I wonder how much Joshua will care about what I did when I was a kid? I suppose he'll be more interested in what Paul did as a kid.