The Crossing Guard Chronicles: Extra Credit & Life’s Little Rewards

“Extra credit! I got extra credit!”

The red-tail hawk perched on the overhead traffic signal at my school crossing post had my rapt(or) attention, so I didn’t hear the initial shouts. And the glare of a low afternoon sun made it difficult to see her, at first. But when I did, it was plain to hear and see a very happy high schooler, eager to deliver some good news.

During the morning crossing, at the Curbside Classroom, in the minute the kids and I have together, I announced that today was Pearl Harbor Day. Now, for most middle schoolers, that drew blank stares. Some high schoolers had heard about it. So, how much ‘ancient history’ can you discuss in 60 seconds? Honestly, I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be much.

Franklin Roosevelt, infamy, war…a minute, to get access to their memory bank and make a small deposit. Apparently, it worked with this student, hence, the happy announcement at the end of the day, this Pearl Harbor Day.

When called upon in class to offer today’s date, my Curbside Classroom ‘pupil’ gave more than just the date, December 7th. She confidently reminded her teacher and class the historical significance of this date.

I wasn’t in the class but learned that her teacher was ‘blown away’ and awarded her extra credit.

As a school crossing guard, or just as an adult tossing out bits of Life’s good ‘stuff’ to young folks, knowing that you’ve made a positive experience for them is a big personal reward. I couldn’t be happier for this student and it made me think a bit more about the importance of passing tidbits along to kids.

Sarah Caldwell was an American Opera conductor, who said, “Learn everything you can, anytime you can. There will always come a time when you will be grateful you did”.

And, William James, an American philosopher and psychologist, encouraged others to “act as if what you do makes a difference, it does”.

In my blog, “S’amusing”, I write about a myriad of Life stories. And within the blog, I have a series titled, ‘The Crossing Guard Chronicles’, which describes my experiences as a school crossing guard and my interaction with kids. We talk and talk and talk as I engage them with a potpourri of topics in our minute, or so, together. Questions, facts, brain teasers, poetry, music (yes, I’ll sing a tune), it’s a veritable salad bowl of topics to kickstart their day (and mine), generate some smiles and help create a positive frame of mind before they enter their ‘brick ‘n mortar’ buildings. And it works.

What a great way to start the day.

One more thing, that same week we talked about trees. I stumped them on ‘shoe trees’. I have to win, occasionally…

Steve Bottcher January 2021

Blog: srbottch.com. Instagram: @srbottch

The Bar Chronicles: #22, UFOs (and you thought we only came for the beer)

Bar Night 2

The forecast called for rain, freezing rain and a quick blast of snow. Our plans called for beer, a cold beer and a heavy dose of camaraderie.

We would not be denied!

However, as veterans of western New York weather (a.k.a. ‘old guys’) with familiarity of the dreaded ‘black ice’, we walked cautiously from car to bar, looking out for each other as friends are wont to do, ready to reach out at the first slip.

A good thing, too, because tonight, at Caverly’s Irish Pub in the Southwedge neighborhood, our first Bar Night of 2019, we had a potpourri of topics on our agenda. In truth, we don’t have an agenda, we just get our beers, sit down and talk, ‘unplugged’!

First things first, goodbyes were in order for one of our dear friends in the group. Oh, Heavens no, not that kind of goodbye. he’s only going to Florida for a couple of months. Will be back here in March when he hopes winter will be just a fading memory. We all know, of course, that winter along the southern shores of the Great Lake, Ontario, lingers well beyond March, often with big surges deep into April.

We lifted our mugs high, or as best we could with sore elbows, bum shoulders and oil can joints, and wished our friend safe travels, warm weather and a speedy return because next time, he buys.

Do you believe in UFOs, other planets that sustain life? Do we occupy this vast system of universes just ourselves, we earthlings? It’s easy to be a skeptic, isn’t it. If you haven’t seen something, then it probably doesn’t exist. Or, have we seen it?

Got your attention? And you thought we only came for the beer. Not at all, but it helps. As we age and become more erudite (remember, the beer helps) we begin to address Life’s lingering questions, such as, ‘is anyone out there’?

What did the Navy pilots aboard the USS Nimitz actually see when they encountered … what shall we call it, a spaceship… off the California coast in 2004? The US government has records of the incident, an incredible story that involved well trained, experienced and credible personnel.

I know, you have your doubts. Read about it, yourself. Look up ‘USS Nimitz & UFO incident’ for a full version. Don’t take a writer’s word, I’m just trying to get and keep your attention. Maybe this Wikipedia article will turn you a little…

The USS Nimitz UFO incident refers to a 2004 radar-visual encounter of an unidentified flying object by US fighter pilots of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group. In December 2017, infrared footage of the encounter was released to the public.

This Bar Nighters were getting into some serious topics, tonight, eh. And it wasn’t the beer talking, heck, we only drank one. No, this was deep thinking material, esoterica, one might say.

I looked at our clear skies differently on the drive home tonight and paused in my driveway after dropping off the last rider; stars as far as I could see, a limitless vista. I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘is anything looking back at me’, as I lowered the garage door and scooted inside.

Here’s a link for more basic data about our skies and those beyond…

https://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/news-display.cfm?News_ID=573

And you thought we went out just for the beer.

Steve

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Snowball Fights Make Good Friends

snowballs

“Wop! Wop! Wop!”

One, then another, and yet another, ‘wop , wop, wop’, from different fronts, rock-hard snowballs, spheres of packed snow that when thrown expertly, leave red blotches on the skin or wet splatter marks on clothing. Mostly, they leave bruised egos! In the shoulder, the backside, the legs and the head, if you’re not watching.

“Run! Run for your life!”

War whoops from the neighborhood bullies who gathered to harass my friends and me on a cold, snowy nor’easter day, the kind of days school kids loved. School was closed, traffic slowed and monster trucks rumbled thru neighborhoods, pushing snow into huge piles for more outdoor games, a perfect atmosphere for snowball fights. These ruffians had lots of opportunities for ‘assaults’ on us during the long, cold New England winters.

Slam!

The kitchen door closed behind me.

“Just in time for dinner”!

“Why are you so wet?”  

“Why are you panting?”

My mother didn’t get it, had no idea of the peril I faced in the dilapidated barn behind my house where the ‘bad guys’ had us trapped, on the second floor, the ‘good guys’, trapped and running out of ‘ammo’. Snow fell through the leaky roof of the old building, but nary enough to ward off the lot of ogres, older by two or three years, ungloved and open jackets, impervious to the elements. Tough guys, the toughest, and outside the barn, with an endless supply of ammo, falling snow.

I had been called once for dinner…

“Steeeeeeeeephen!”

“Suuuuuupper!”

She didn’t, and wouldn’t, call more than once.

… but the bullies wouldn’t allow our plea for a truce, a ‘temporary suspension of hostilities’. Only a ‘brave’ jump from the hayloft door into a pile of snow and mad dash to my house saved me from…well, you can just imagine!

Yes, ‘imagine’, and I do. Such a beautiful word. I find that, as I get older, a little bit at a time, ‘imagining’ becomes a key part of what I remember and makes my childhood experiences even more vivid than they probably were.

Oh, the barn was there, leaning, and snowball fights were common. And there were older kids, lots of them in a working class neighborhood of large families, but they weren’t really bullies, ruffians, or ogres. Often, we were on the same side in other activities played outside on the streets, surrounded by fresh air.

However, winter was the season of the toughest games. ‘King of the hill’ saw friends tossed about while vieing for the top spot of a snow mound. Sledding was fast and furious, weaving around cars, trees or each other. Just knocking someone into a snow bank was a game. All of it, the rough and tumble, pushing and shoving, bonded our friendships more.

We wore ourselves out…outside, where we created games all day and came home to the loud yell of, ‘suuuuupper!’

I can still pack a good snowball and hit a target…and imagine…and remember.

Yes, snowball fights made good friends!

Steve

January 2019

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To all kids who played in the streets, created fun games with friends and still remember it all.