When I was in kindergarten, I walked to school. I’m sure I told my children that it was several miles, and uphill both ways, and (since it was in Michigan) in waist-deep snow, but it was really only a few blocks down a sidewalk, across the guard-protected crosswalk, and into the building. My older brother also walked to school (he was in sixth grade), but since I was the annoying baby sister, he walked way ahead of me.
No bother. It was a well-traveled path and a straight shot to the school. I usually found something to watch or think about, or (my favorite) imagine. I was no longer little Linda padding her way down to the magical room where Burl Ives would be playing from the record player when I walked in. (“Lavender Blue” is still one of my favorite songs!) I was an adventurer on the way to make a rescue! A princess hurrying to find the prince!
I don’t actually recall the scenario on the day of this memoir. Perhaps there wasn’t one at all. I remember looking around, then looking behind me. The sun was such that the people behind me were in shadow, their features indistinct. Among the many heads of varying heights, I noticed an especially tall one, bobbing and swerving around the others as he ran down the sidewalk in my direction.
In my five-year-old mind, the race was on!
I walked faster. My challenge to myself was to not run, but to beat the running person to the corner. He had to have been a high schooler – his shadowed head was way above my elementary school buddies’ heads. I looked back. He was still bobbing and weaving among the students. He was gaining on me. I walked faster.
That adreneline rush of heart-pounding anxiety hit my little five-year-old heart and my little legs, practically knee-locked with desperation. I must have been quite a sight — eyes wide, little legs a-pumping straight-legged, my metal lunch box in a white-knuckled grip at my side.
Cross the last street before the big one – the corner I saw as the “finish line.” Check behind me — the tall bouncing shadow still coming, closing in a little more! I turned and put a little more push into my step. Determination knitting my brow, my breathing getting louder, I zipped past others walking leisurely, unaware of the unfolding drama around them.
Finally I got to the corner and the crossing guard was in the crosswalk, waving me on. What luck! I didn’t have to stop! I glanced back once more, and saw the shadowed runner even closer, but – in your face, big kid! – NOT close enough!
The victory was mine!
Race over, I walked calmly into the building, stopping outside of the classroom to get my things together before going in. In typical five-year-old fashion, I had already begun to forget about the Big Race…..
…..when my Dad came gasping through the door, breathing heavily from a run, and gripping the apple I had planned to bring my teacher that day but had forgotten at home.
(He told me later that he saw it, grabbed it up, and thought, “She’s just now leaving, I’m sure I can catch her.” Little did he know…..)