While I’ve historically busted on my kids’ public elementary school for being in the dark ages about such things as soda, recycling and advertising to kids, the school recently did something that was very much on the ball — and very Red Pill, actually.
As part of the Georgia Safe Routes to School program, we participated in Walk to School Day 2011. It was held last week, and our whole family did it, along with hundreds of other families from the school. For something so simple, it was kind of extraordinary. Crusty old me even got a little tweary over the whole thing, perhaps because it was the first time I participated in something with a lot of other local families that *I* am passionate about. I suppose it’s the same feeling you get from being part of a sports team, or participating in a political rally (neither of which I’ve ever done, actually): the cool sort of metaphysical togetherness of a group of people coming together — physically vs. virtually (very important) – because they all believe that something is important. (I, and a lot of other people, have also believed that A Flock of Seagulls and various other not entirely outdated bands were important, but with the amount of intoxicating substances involved, I’m not sure that counts.)
Oneness with all of mankind aside, it was kind of comical. I stopped to chat with neighbors and friends along the way, enjoying the sociability of the whole thing; Daddy kept the convoy moving so I had to run to catch up a couple of times, and he continued to anxiously check the time to make sure we were on schedule; Walter was alternately speed-walking and diddle-pooping (to be expected of 6-year-old legs, of course); Lily for much of the time was holding my hand, and then when we came together with more families on the main road, she began sneaking smiles and glances at the boys who were talking about her (yes, we’re getting to that age). Some dads had bed-head, some moms had the rolled-out-of-bed look, others were fully made up and coiffed in their matchy-matchy exercise outfits (next to grubby me in my old sneakers, Giants hat and Napster t-shirt); lots of people were walking their dogs, and at one point when the line coming up the hill was as solid as the line going down, I felt the very strong urge to stick my hand out and start muttering, “Good game, good game” as the lines slid by eachother. I resisted that bizarre urge (I also get the urge to stand up and lead camp songs when riding buses; what IS that?) and instead enjoyed saying Hey to about fifty people I passed that I knew.
As we got closer to the school, the Sheriff’s department was helping walkers cross at the traffic lights, volunteers were out along the route in front of the school, some poor soul in a Mario costume was waving us along (though I could have done without that little bit of branding, of course), a lane was roped off along the drive into the parking lot, and an assistant principal was handing out stickers and pencils. This was an EVENT people; we were taking over the streets!
And then I noticed the most astounding thing: at this school, which on a typical day has enough car-riders that the solid, slow-moving line completely blocks residential streets in the morning, there was not ONE CAR dropping off ONE KID when we arrived at the school. It was peaceful, it was quiet, it was safe. The air was clean.
We kissed our kids goodbye at the doors, wished them a good day, and off we went for the return trip, which we broke up with a praline pecan french toast, corned beef hash and coffee pit stop along the way (which luckily coincided with a run of the tornado siren and a brief downpour, neither of which we would have wanted to be outside for).
The verdict: fantastic! We loved doing it, the kids loved it, it was great exercise, and SO encouraging for this poor soul who has felt like such a fish out of water here in this little red state/blue pill suburban enclave. Now if people had been collecting trash and recyclables along the way? I would have passed out.
The most extraordinary thing about this whole event is what has happened as we’ve continued to walk to school. Stay tuned for my next post.
Good game, good game; now, together with feeling: “John … Jacob, Jingleheimer Schmidt ….”
Red Pill Mama