We only live about a mile from my six-year-old daughter’s school. So one bright morning, although it’s not our usual routine, we decide to walk it.
We slip through a hole in the hedge at the corner of our yard and onto the sidewalk, like walking into another world.
We begin our walk with the adventure of crossing the Big Road, a two-way four-lane street: Look both ways. Okay, no cars coming. Ready: one, two, three–run!
We make it to the opposite sidewalk, unscathed, laughing. Feeling safer now, we slow down and look around.
Oh look! There’s the jasmine blooming, curling up a lamp post. Smell it!
See that! Little succulent plants are growing up from the cracks in the path, like living green veins in the asphalt. Suzie hops over each one carefully.
We hear birds and wind in the trees, the shifting of the air. We hear the traffic careening by next to us. “They’re going so fast,” Suzie says.
Our eyes follow the line of a canal, perpendicular to our path, the early morning sun shining golden and hazy on its surface. A real estate sign from one of the adjoining neighborhoods has blown into the water.
Suzie is excited to write in her journal when she gets to school. She plans out what she’ll say: “I walked to school today. We saw trash in the canal, which means it is polluted.”
I show Suzie the sign marking where we need to turn into campus. She stops and studies it, her eyes following the arrow in the direction we need to walk.
Mostly we just talk. About school, about things I didn’t know about her: like how much she enjoys Monday morning chapel “because I like to pray, and the speakers are always really interesting too.”
We talk about the things we see.
We walk by a house covered on top with a blue tarp. “That house needs a new roof,” I observe. “Oh, and it’s for sale.” Suzie is outraged. “They shouldn’t try to sell people a house that doesn’t have a roof. That’s dangerous!” We briefly discuss real estate investment…
We lose a little time once we get to the back of campus (the lower school is all the way at the front). Should we cut across the baseball field or behind the middle school? We choose behind the middle school and discover a little teaching garden full of raised beds, ready to be planted with vegetables, and a protected natural area with a sign that promises us “reptiles present.”
“Does that mean snakes?” Suzie asks. “Yes,” I say, “but not just snakes.” We run through a list of all the reptiles we know… “maybe lizards, maybe alligators… What else is a reptile?”
“What if tomatoes were reptiles?” Suzie smiles.
“Well,” I say, “that would mean there must be an awful lot of tomatoes behind that fence over there.” We smile at each other, like friends, happy to share a (somewhat dubious) sense of humor.
Eventually we do make it to school. We’re late, our leisurely walk having taken a bit longer than I had planned. Suzie is exhausted, I think, but I can read the happiness and calm on her face. I recognize the far off, focused look in her eyes, and I know she’s busy processing all the adventures we experienced on our walk to school.
With a wave, I leave her sitting in chapel and head off back home, on my own adventure.
Do you walk with your kids to school, or maybe just around your own neighborhood? Did you walk to school as a kid? Share your experiences in the comment section.
Jaime is Communications Director at Sunflower Creative Arts.
© Jaime Greenberg and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2011
Photos © Jaime Greenberg and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2011