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Kukka by Sally Kilgore: Painted Stones

Photo by Sally Kilgore

ROCKWALL, TX (Oct. 27, 2022) On a sunny morning recently, I wound my way up the road to my grandson’s school.  Something I greatly relish about living where we do, is we are just right over the next bump to the country. While suburbia encroaches, and I know some resent it terribly, I am grateful to live close to the country.  A particular route, the “back way” to the grocery store, takes me up and down small hills, around curves, with everyday miracles of fields and wildflowers, a pond, and a small barn with the Texas flag painted on the side.  Driving that route, fast breaths of hurry here, hurry there, give way to moments that slow a bit. I might mosey and pull to the right for that impatient guy, in the truck behind me, to pass.

I made my way up a rural highway to school for Book Fair – Grandparent’s Day.  Book Fair is a favorite tradition for the small hooligans and me, i.e., scads of new books. Two other related favorite activities are:  Binges at Barnes & Snowball (Noble), and Binges at Half Price Books – The Mothership, in Dallas.  How many books can a child pile in his/her arms? That’s how many I am buying. For the record, Granddad, aka B.O.B., is enthusiastic in his approval of monies spent on books.  Is there a better way to “spoil” a child than to open his world with reading?

It was my first visit to this elementary school, my grandson having just transferred in, this school year. My visit began with a goof up of my own making. I went to the middle school first, going to three entrances before locating the main entry with the doorbell. Giving my name and the purpose for my presence to the office lady, I noted a line of students inside and thought to myself, “grade schoolers are getting bigger these days…”  That friendly woman, and other teachers in the office were so affable, telling me I was at the wrong school (no Book Fair for middle schoolers – bummer,) graciously assuring me the correct school was right up the road at the next turn. Nobody laughed at me – at least not while I was there.

Not to hold you in suspense any longer, I arrived at the elementary school. Walking up to the school, stepping around a colorful chalked fox on the front walk, I was greeted, at a table, by a staff member; taking driver licenses, making computer entries, checking the grandparents in and giving us “Visitor” name tags.  (I did chuckle to myself, one woman held up her name tag and asked: “What should I do with this?”  What ELSE would you do with a name tag?  You slap it on your chest and hope it stays on.  Oh. I am now recalling that I’m the one who went to the wrong school. I bet she went to the correct school on her first try. Please delete any reference to name tag befuddled folks, from this column.)

We  waited in a loose line in the entry, for our sweeties to come down from class. There is so much activity in a school.  Lines of children headed to recess, the occasional wanderer headed to restroom or office. Children feeling comfortable in their safe place, a cocoon of childhood and learning and friends, and show & tell, lunch, recess.  Everywhere, teachers and aides; each one of them with a smile on their face and something happy to say. And each, it seemed, knowing just who every child was.  I watched kids in the hallways, delighted to see their grandparents. Mine was the pokiest – but to be fair, he had been at recess.  He came down the hall with a little sheepish grin on his face. I gathered up his big ol’ hug. This guy, whose long legs go all the way up to his neck, all of a sudden, hair a bit wonky on top, wearing a long sleeved, hooded tee that we had picked out at Target before the start of school.  It’s still a smidgie bit big, and no doubt, before winter is over his wrists will be sticking all the way out of it.

We had a happy browse through the books, though they were not as abundant as in years past.  It was last day of the Book Fair and items were fairly sold out.  We purchased the items he found and made a promise to have a B&N binge soonest.   I sent him off down the hall, back to his room, not wanting to go with him and be an unknown adult wandering the hallways. A pleasant break from my ordinary day, having a peek into my grandson’s daytime world.

A classroom change occurred in the hallway just as I was heading out.  Children lined up to the right, others lined up to the left, and an open lavatory washroom leading into the bathroom, flooded with kiddos washing hands at troughs and bouncing back out into line.  Kids coming and going, some bunching up a bit, not breaking line (perhaps just a little.) I did a dance, in and out, trying to stay in a clear lane to avoid being plowed down by wall to wall children.

Anticipating a bit of a drive home, I popped into the faculty restroom, though I did have a second thought about it; being aware that a stranger coming out of the faculty restroom could be somewhat alarming these days. Would that thought have crossed my mind several years ago? Checking out, I handed in my Visitor tag.  Doing so, I had an awareness that, while there was nothing outrageous about the check in system, it is a screening process – carefully adhered to.  School doors are locked, visitors are buzzed in, teachers and aides are at every corner, eyes open for anything out of the ordinary. There is so much more to be aware of than simply counting heads, these days.

Returning to my car, I stopped in the sunshine to gaze at the fox, the local mascot, drawn in chalk, on the sidewalk. I smiled at a flower bed, lined and filled with colorful stones, painted by the children.  I thought about the grade schoolers, lined up in the hallways.  And I thought about checking in at a computer station, wearing a name tag, teachers monitoring the confusion in the hallways. Teachers and aides keeping a safe place, that cocoon that keeps our children happy and teaches them to thrive in the world.

Sitting in the car in the parking lot, then pulling slowly across the drive and out onto the road, I contemplated.  All those children, all those long legs, all the short ones, all the boys and girls, all the colors and sizes; all safe, that day.  And of all the babies that were lost in Uvalde last spring.  I get teary thinking of all those little lost lives, and the adult lives taken, and the teachers, and the ones whose wounds are still healing, so many who will never again feel completely safe.  Their happy, secure cocoon was blasted wide open. There are not adequate words to express our grief at the agony experienced by the the parents of Uvalde, the fear and horror, all of it.

I had reveled in a happy event, standing in the sunny morning, looking at painted stones, sidewalk chalk.  Feeling an affection for interior walls decorated with uplifting statements and posters, children oblivious to anything other than being guided to their next activity. I cannot balance the unfairness of those lives lost and the gratitude for the safety of my own grandchildren.

I thank God for all the teachers, the staff, the janitors, lunch ladies, helpers.  These folks who know our children by name, in a school with hundreds of little kiddos.  They know whose class my grandson is in – even when I don’t.  Their eyes are constantly open for the little ones.  What an incredible burden on their shoulders, to keep the children safe. Yet they perform cheerfully, with kindness and care.  I pray their efforts are effective.

Thank you for fall weather, rural roads, small towns, long sleeves, books to broaden young minds, children who are happy in these days of their life, teachers, parents, grandparents and all the others who take care.

Bless those whose innocence has been destroyed.  I pray they can be whole again.

By Sally Kilgore of Fate. Sally is a former resident of Rowlett, and a recent transplant, across the lake, to Fate, Texas. She is married to her long time flame, Chris Kilgore. When not writing, gardening, filling in at the local flower shop or hanging out with grandkids, Sally devotes her time to serving Bob Kilgore, a generously sized, Tuxedo cat with panache.

Contact Sally at or via her website SallyAKilgore.com

 

MORE FROM SALLY KILGORE

Kukka by Sally Kilgore: Early October

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