Thursday, March 27, 2014

Commodore Perry Elementary School

My most memorable friendships were forged on the playground of Commodore Perry Elementary School in Mahwah, New Jersey.  It was a time when kindergarten wasn’t mandatory and only lasted a half day.  The playground seemed enormous and was divided into sections:  the black-top, knee scraping hop-scotch area, the swing set, slide and jungle gym region, and the field for kickball, racing and other sports.

Boys had cooties and reveled in flinging earthworms that seemed numerous on the asphalt after a hard spring rain.  Hop-scotch would entertain us for the duration of our allotted playtime and I had my first experience of shoe envy when Kim could stomp a lion-shaped sole pattern into the dirt with her new lace-up shoes.  Nike was years away from being cool, but having a pair of Kangaroo sneakers with the tiny zipper pouch on the side earned you instant celebrity status.  The girls would plan our outfits ahead of time if the play of the next day was the gleaming silver jungle gym, hexagon in shape with promises of danger.  Dresses could only be worn if shorts were underneath.  The only girl who didn’t seem to care was Becky.  Second grade brought a newcomer to our group, whose parents just returned from a missionary trip.  Jennifer was blonde and exotic with her tales of travel to places like Africa.  We would spend time along the back fence of the field picking buttercups and holding them beneath each others’ chins to see who liked butter.

One day, the teachers decided that the boys and girls could no longer play with each other, perhaps due to a worm flinging session gone awry, and play time was divided in half with the playground divided between the field and the other areas.  At half-time, a whistle would sound and we would dutifully switch sides.  The girls field time was spent with “Mother May I”, “Red Rover, Red Rover”, “Red Light, Green Light” and “Octopus, octopus, by the sea, octopus, octopus you can’t catch me!”

I have forgotten a lot of things over the years but it is true that you never forget the kids you grew up with, the childhood games you played and a time that still seems within reach.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Battle of Wishes

For the past several years, the Englishman and I have engaged in a battle with the dandelions in our yard.  In the beginning, there were more dandelions than grass and wrestling the stubborn weed from the earth created large, reddish-brown circles in the yard with barely there glimpses of green.  We filled buckets and bags with nothing but weeds and after a seemingly successful day of warfare, we awoke to bright yellow blossoms darting across the yard, oblivious to the carnage of the previous day.

Last year, my mother joined the ranks and she and I crawled across the front yard, pulling the roots with a screw driver and other specialty tools.  We talked, pulled, and crept until the sun disappeared and our buckets overflowed with thick roots, leaves and dandelion heads.

Spring in Georgia has arrived and our yard is absent of the yellow heads.  The adult in me is glad that the battle is over and we have emerged triumphantly.  My childhood memories are still vivid and I mourn the loss of flower chains and the sticky yellow residue left behind on tiny fingertips.  I miss the joy of carefully plucking a dandelion with the soft feathery seeds and gently blowing my wishes into the wind.  And on occasion, I long for a time when Winnie the Pooh wisdom said it best:  “Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them”.