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the playground at anthony's elementary has two kinds of parents strewn about before morning bell: all the parents of the new kindergartener-crop and me, the parent of a now fourth grader. the kindergarten parents huddle expectantly. in these two and three person clusters you can see them pensively exchanging trials (and tips) about the rigors of turning your baby over to the education-machine. i'm on the other side of the blacktop, literally and figuratively, standing alone and tend to have a small huddle of curious post-kindergarten kids huddled around me asking questions.

adults routinely ask me why i still do this, hand-deliver my child to the school (versus pulling up to the busy roundabout in front of the school or the curb of the adjacent park long enough for them to hop out and begin the jostling-backpack run down the grassy hill). in the past i've talked about the morning walks to school with anthony (JAN16 gallery). they remain a for-sure highlight of my week (and reportedly his). i would also say the relationship anthony and i have would only be half what it is without our dedicated morning time together—truth is given all of the natural and unexpected tumult in our lives, i fret to imagine what it might look like without our morning routine these past few years for he could have surely got lost in that youngest child limbo. the other reason i do this is because of the before-school scene on the playground—it is most spectacular. kids running in every direction. giant and authentic, and i MEAN giant AND authentic smiles painted across their small faces. clothes on inside out. backward. pajama bottoms with dress shirts. snow boots with gym shorts. stripes with plaids and cases of bedhead that would make you think they slept in the clothes dryer, while it was running. it is a swirling cacophony of uncut joy. granted every now and again you will see someone crying mostly due to a blind-side, full-speed collision but that is both rare and temporary. fact is, when you take the scene in en masse it is a marvel the whole lot of them haven't yet run into each other at full tilt.

when the kids see me, a lone non-teaching adult in the mix, they sometimes pull up and ask me questions (such genuinely curious souls). these conversations are often the best chats i participate in every day. here's an example from last week. to set the scene a bit. i was wearing a home-made tank-top *. it was a colorado state university shirt that had the sleeves and collar cut out. it was what i was wearing when anthony and i had to leave and i didn't think or bother to change (remember the crazy outfits they are wearing). when we arrived at the playgound the first people we saw were a couple of anthony's friends (i think they saw us coming and worked their way over to greet him). when we walked up they gave anthony a 'hey' and immediately turned my way, studying me with curiosity.

TROY
hey guys. good morning.

KID 1
did you get that shirt at a store?

TROY (exaggratedly)
what? oh. yes it looks professionally done doesn't it? i could see why you'd think that. but no i made it at home.

KID 1
i would be surprised if a store could sell that.

KID 2
so you cut those holes in the shirt?

TROY
yes. i know, you can hardly tell i did it myself can't you? i mean it looks professionally done, no?

KID 2
no. it totally looks like you did it.

KID 1
did you cut the holes with a knife?

TROY
ha. no. i used a pair of scissors. you want me to do it to your shirt?

KID 1 (stepping back)
oh no. i like my shirt.

KID 2
were you wearing it when you cut the holes in it?

TROY
oh my gosh. no. that could get interesting. i'd probably cut something off.

KID 2
maybe you could cut some of that armpit hair off.

TROY
uhhh. yeah. that would probably be a good thing, no?

KID 1
yeah. why do you have so much hair in there?

KID 2
yeah, what does it do?

i haven't began many days by having to defend my armpit hair's existence. while not greatly confidence boosting it does score high on the unique-ways-to-start-your-day list. after this they ran off with anthony, blending into the playground swirl. i moved to a more central spot on the playground pushing my bike (now that i go home after dropping him off and not to an office, anthony and i are able to bike to school—which is good as it let's me get back home faster). as i'm crossing the playground two new kids approach me. i'd say they were in 1st or 2nd grade.

KID 3
hey mister.

TROY
yes.

KID 3
do you know how to ride that bike?

TROY
of course i can, i'm a rock star.

(the boy stepped back and looked at me expectantly. i looked at him.)

KID 3
well, are you going to show me that you can ride it?

TROY
oh. you want me to ride it right now. you don't believe i can. you know i would but i think there are too many kids for me to ride right here but i promise you i know how to ride it.

KID 4
i know how to ride my bike without my trainers.

TROY
that's awesome.

KID 4
i learned this summer.

TROY
that's a great summer-kind-of-thing to learn. that's something you'll use the rest of your life for sure.

KID 3
mister.

TROY
yes.

KID 3
are you really a rock star?

there is always a part of me that is sad when the bell sounds and the kids begin charging to their line-up spots. given their enthusiasm you can't help but think you're missing out on something. but then there is another, much-larger, part of me that is super-relieved i'm not being asked to join them and that i can throw a leg over my bike and go on my adult and homework-free way.

* regarding my home made tank top. based on some recent research i've done it is believed by some that we as a society are desperately lacking in two things nutritionally: protein and vitamin D. looking to get the most out of my daily workouts, i'm on a campaign to see i'm not part of that statistic. vitamin D is best obtained from the sun so you need/should get a little direct sunlight every day to get your fill. now that i work from home, i am able to go on a 15 mile bike ride virtually every day and decided that instead of wearing a full bike jersey as i historically have, i'd switch to a tank top to get a touch more sun while i'm out. problem was i only had one tank top. it was a joke-christmas gift from marty last year. it was bright yellow and said SUNS OUT - GUNS OUT. on the good side my physique is absent enough that me wearing this shirt is obviously a joke but still, i turned the shirt inside out to wear it. problem was the black lettering on the yellow shirt made it quite readable even then. so i went to the basement and dug out some shirts that didn't fit me super well and started converting them to tank-tops. and that is why i was wearing a sloppily cut tank top that got some fast and proper ridicule from anthony's sharp and quick-witted friends.

image credit: Alexander DeArmitt

JUL2016

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