Today, I Brought Balloons

balloon 1
I brought balloons, three of them tied into a bouquet and weighted. It was the first day of the new school year.

I’m a school crossing guard, one of a dozen in my town. We’re the first and last ‘person of authority’ most kids see when they begin or end their school day. Awesome responsibility.

This morning, I brought balloons to my post, then waited. And it worked, there were smiles and audible whispers of ‘oohs & awwws’. The first day of school was off to a pretty good start, a happy start.

All the students managed to cross safely across a busy road going to their middle and high school buildings. That’s the number one priority. But our job begins and ends before and after the crossing, itself, and that helps make their school day a positive experience. Often, it’s just a smile, a greeting, maybe a ‘great day’ wish, or a compliment, something positive they can take with them every school day.

Do you remember your first days? First day of school, first day of a new job, first day in the military? A bit unnerving, wasn’t it? Meeting new people, having new bosses, understanding new rules; phew, I feel pressure just recalling it all. Imagine how a kid feels.

My first teacher was Miss Fanny, we giggled at her name, until she slapped ‘ours’. Mrs.Downes was my first of many bosses. The principal at an elementary school where I taught before making a career change, Mrs. Downes (Isabel) was a civilian drill instructor, tough but fair, with high expectations from her staff. Drill Sergeant Davis was my first real drill sergeant (Army). He was tough, too, and fair, he showed no favoritism when delivering his wrath.

Initially, all three of these supervisors gave me pause on my ‘first day’ but I adjusted. The kids we cross daily will adjust in time, too, some sooner than others. I like to think that our approach and interaction with them will expedite that adjustment period.

So, today I brought balloons, and waited…       balloon 2

Steve
Srbottch.com
September 6, 2017

To school crossing guards, everywhere
To students of all ages
To everyone experiencing a ‘first time’

The Streets of Our Neighborhood…

streets

(photo by Kathy Davis)

They generally were hilly, up and down in every direction, making our play more challenging in summer and more fun in winter. They hurt us when we tripped, leaving red stains where we fell. They were uneven and balls took crazy bounces. We marked them with chalk, then hop-scotched on them. We jumped on them, over ropes while singing crazy verses. These were ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.

They were yesterday’s outdoor ‘home screens’ where we played, running with our legs, peddling our bikes, throwing balls and playing other games with friends, both boys and girls. They led us to parks, schools and downtown. We were always moving on ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.

From early morning to dusk, we were the ‘gangs’ who gathered there for games, games that we created ourselves with balls, sticks, piles of leaves or mountains of snow. They provided us our own place to roam and explore until the calls to come home were heard, on ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.

We were the noisemakers, youngsters covering our eyes against a tree, counting to a hundred, then warning, ‘here I come, ready or not’, seeking the hiders and chasing them like a hound after a fox.  With youthful exuberance and constant yelling, we ran each other down in games of tag, catching the fastest one last through sheer exhaustion. Wild games, played on ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.

Today, as an adult, I wonder, where is all that unbridled energy?  Where are the boys and girls with knuckles and knees scraped and bruised from running and pushing and falling and doing it over and over, day after day? Where is the happy sound of kids physically exerting themselves in their made up play? Where is the noise that used to make older people open their windows and yell, “go play in front of your own house”? I’m older now and have earned my turn to yell…to be an old curmudgeon, but the streets are empty.

‘The streets of our neighborhoods’ were places where kids met without adult supervision. We planned, organized and executed the days and weeks activities on our own. It was informal and efficient.  The streets were a safe place to be. We settled disagreements without intervention. Our minds, and most importantly, our bodies were actively involved in our play and we flourished, playing outside everyday. We fell fast asleep at bedtime and awoke energized to do it again.

Some of my best memories are street play with friends from the neighborhood. We had winners and losers, but the play itself was paramount. Nothing stopped us. Only growing up could do that…on ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.

srbottch

To Joey, Lincoln, Tommy, Buzza, Jackie and a slew of other kids who played, then grew up, on ‘the streets of our neighborhood’.