On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Published in the Rains County Leader on October 7, 2021:

I first became a member of the school pick up brigade when Christian was three years old. After several years of being a stay-at-home wife and mother, I rejoined the workforce and he entered the world of daycare. After a few false starts, we found a place we both liked, and I fell into a daily cycle of drop off, work, pick up, errands, and home. My quitting time was 4:30, so I avoided the pick-up crush of those who were on a 9-to-5 schedule.

By the time my little man was ready for kindergarten, I was working from home and we lived about two blocks from his school. When the weather was nice, we walked the two blocks together, crossing the one busy street with the help of a crossing guard. That orange-vested man with the hand-held stop sign became Christian’s hero. He says being a crossing guard is still on his bucket list. During bad weather, I drove, and sitting in line took longer than the drive to and from. Thanks to the same crossing guard, we always made the trip safely.

The summer between his first and second grade years, we moved further west. We didn’t like the local school system, so Christian entered private school, and I went to work in the school’s business office. One benefit of the job was on-campus childcare for staff, so we commuted together.

This arrangement worked great for a couple of years, and then a former employee made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I changed jobs. My new position was of the 9-to-5 variety, so I landed smack dab in the middle of the drop-off and pick-up chaos. I learned to deal with the rusher, the driver who rushed up beside the line and tried to edge into the front of the line; the blocker who parked at the front of the line while they ran inside for just a minute; the sleeper who always seemed to be napping when the car in front of them moved up; the honker who believed persistent sound waves would move the line more quickly; and many other interesting people. Christian noted to his friends that his mom always had a book with her, so she didn’t mind waiting. He was half right.

The before and after school routine continued pretty much the same until he got his license and his own car. I have to admit that I missed our together time on the drive home, but I didn’t miss the chaos and the traffic.

Since we’ve never lived close to our grandkids, I haven’t been back on the circuit except for an occasional visit. And then last week my mentee got her first job, and she needed a ride on her first day of work. Of course, I was glad to help, but I was a little apprehensive as the time drew near. I set an alarm on my phone, and I gave myself a thirty-minute window even though it’s only a five-minute drive to the school. As I entered the school zone, I saw that I was already too late to get a spot in the drive-through. I made a probably illegal u-turn and took my place on the shoulder behind the two cars between me and the turn-in.

I didn’t have a book with me, so I checked Facebook and email. I also looked around enough to realize that some things had not changed since the last time I had done this. A rusher hurried past the waiting cars and parked in a reserved spot, and several sleepers had left at least a car length before the next car in line. I didn’t hear any honking, and since the line wasn’t moving, it was hard to tell if there were any blockers, but I did see some tricky new moves.

Two drivers had entered through the junior high drive and were parked where it cuts into the high school driveway. I assume they were planning to push their way into the line when it began to move. It looked like a good way to get blocked in completely if those in the regular line decided to close up ranks. There were also several who parked on the shoulder on the other side of the turn in, by-passing the driveway altogether. There were even a few who stopped in the turn lane. I’m not sure if there’s a time limit on how long a car can sit there, but there wasn’t a policeman in attendance, so it wasn’t an issue.

When the bell rang, I texted my student to let her know where I was, and I started my engine. She reached me before the line moved, so I looked for an opening into traffic. Apparently, there is no “after you” attitude in school pick up. I had to wait for most of the cars to zoom past me before I could get into the flow, and then those on the shoulder across from the driveway dashed out in front of me. When I reached the stoplight, the cars in the turn lane – the ones that didn’t turn – pushed in wherever they could, and I almost missed my turn into the restaurant because no one wanted to let me in.

Thankfully, we arrived in plenty of time for my mentee to call her boyfriend and adjust her hat around her ponytail before she clocked in. So far, she has not needed another ride, but I’ll be there if she needs me. I just need to remember that school pick-up traffic has become vicious in the last few decades. The rule of thumb can now be found in Joshua 21:25. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Blessings,

Linda

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