Walking To School With Abraham Lincoln
Way back in the day, I trudged through eight-foot snowdrifts in my nine-mile commute to school.
Okay, that was Abraham Lincoln.
But I feel almost as old while I wait in the line of traffic following the school bus.
It’s a cold day and there was a dusting of snow last night. But that doesn’t explain what I am watching.
The bus stops at every house. EVERY house. The children wait INSIDE until the bus pulls up and stops. Then mom walks the kid to the bus (SLOWLY, because it might be icy), and gives him a kiss. Mom adjusts his hat. He climbs onto the bus. Then the bus WAITS until the kid sits down and CAREFULLY pulls away. The bus driver rolls to the next house. REPEAT.
Perhaps the liberal use of CAPS reveals my mild annoyance.
I’m in no hurry to get to work. I’m rarely in a hurry for anything. What is exasperating me is that the kids walk only from their door to the bus.
This particular street has sidewalks and traffic lights. They could walk to the corner to get the bus. Or better still, they could walk ALL THE WAY to school, which is about four blocks away.
And these kids are all fat. Gee, I wonder why.
I don’t have kids. I never really noticed when things changed.
So back to me and Honest Abe.
The elementary school I went to was only three blocks away. So I walked. Like I think kids should do today. I was a bit of a dreamer and meanderer (but you read my blog, so you know I haven’t changed) and it took me fifteen minutes to walk what was probably a five-minute walk. But still fifteen minutes. That’s hardly arduous.
And that’s not all.
I went to a Catholic grammar school that did not have a kindergarten. So when I was five years old, before I had a three-block walk to school, I went to kindergarten at the public school that was half a mile away. And I WALKED!
My mother didn’t walk with me. I walked with my cousin Arthur. He was also FIVE.
Can you picture us? Two five-year-olds, walking every day.
You may notice on this map that most of the walk was along Route 69. While not exactly the highway, we weren’t walking along country roads either. These were city streets. With traffic.
Arthur had an older brother at that school. He was already at school when we went to our half-day afternoon kindergarten. But he walked home with us. It’s nice to have someone older to be responsible. Johnny was in first grade. He was SIX.
One day in early January, Arthur and Johnny arrived home without me. When our mothers asked where I was, they weren’t quite sure. They’d lost track of me. Mom was panic-stricken. She ran up those streets looking for me, without success. An hour later I showed up. For a change of pace, I had taken Race Street and Valley Street home, and lots of people had discarded their Christmas trees by the side of the road. They all had wonderful tinsel, and I couldn’t resist stopping at every tree to collect the shiny strands.
My mother was terrified that day. But only for one day, because the next day I walked to school again. The only thing that changed were the strict instructions to stay with my cousins and come straight home.
As natural as it seemed back then, I have to admit that I cannot picture it today. My little niece Naomi is five years old. She’s also in kindergarten. I would NEVER let her walk a half mile to school. She’s just a baby for God’s sake.