Saturday, October 16, 2010

Right On Time

Today is a holiday in my town.  Once per month during the school year, the start of the school day is delayed by about an hour.  All the kids at the grade schools, the middle school and the high school start at about the same time after 9am.  The point is to allow the district teachers and administration some built-in collaboration time.  Late Start Day.

But I see it in less practical terms.  I love moving the alarm clock an hour later, knowing the kids will get up at roughly the same time anyway.  But we can take our time, get organized and avoid the morning rush with this bit of extra time.  We can have breakfast and conversation together. I am fortunate that my work schedule is as flexible as I make it, so this later start does not cause me any childcare conundrums.

More than that, I am childishly inclined to see this day as a monthly reason to celebrate delays, a slowing down, a time to honor late-blossoming flowers and original time-tables; reason to celebrate my own later bloomer.  Owing to medical, cognitive and communicative differences, Addie didn't roll over, sit up, crawl or walk "on time," she didn't communicate "on time" and she's not on track to read "on time."  She's had a late start in all of those things and is in the midst of a late start on many others.  In my mind, this day that comes ones per month is in her honor, in honor of all humans picking their path in their own time, eschewing common schedules and deadlines.

Because I had time to get organized this morning, we were able to walk to school.  Cate walks the 2 blocks to middle school every day, but most days Addie and I drive the just-shy-of-a-mile distance to her school. Not today. We cracked out the jogging stroller that seems to be shrinking by the day (I choose not to believe that my youngest is growing as fast as she is), put on our fall fleeces and started out on our trek.

As we turn the first corner I am reminded that Late Start Day also meant the sidewalks would be filled with the other elementary schoolers and middle and high schoolers walking in the opposite direction, all of us jolly and in the Late Start spirit. A very holiday feel to share the sidewalk with so many later in the morning.  Not long on the road, I spot a knot of middle school girls.  Even from afar I could see them smile, laugh and gesture with exaggerated animation.  As I plan in which direction to lean the wide jogger to let group pass intact, I notice their necks straighten in unison, eyes locked on us. Barely audible at the beginning, the murmur sharpens as we draw nearer each other.  My ears pluck out "That's Addie."  "Remember Addie?" "Addie had Mrs So and So" "Addie was my friend’s book buddy. I got to be her buddy when my friend was sick." "Addie, addie, addie, addie."

We arrive at the axis of our paths facing each other, though I do not get more than a glance myself.  Some crouch low.   "Hi Addie!  You are in first grade now!  I go to school with your sister, Cate...."  The girls chatter while Addie wears the mild smile of one who knows she is revered.  I recognize one or two of these girls, but do not know a single one by name.

Further on as we turn onto the busier thoroughfare for the morning commute, we see many pass on bikes, waving and calling out to my tiny daughter by name.

A car going a bit too fast zoomed by as a young fellow's voice - of the high school or late middle school tone - hollers "Adddeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

This festival of belated beginnings honoring Addie and Bella and Stephen and Noah and Erika and Nathan and Alex and Caden and Emily and Joe… and all children with differences was off to a rousing start.

As we draw near Addie's school, she accepts other greetings from grownups and kids alike.  As one of the heroes of the day, Addison declines to comment in return.  In truth, her communication device is under her seat and her signing hands each gripped a small toy she chose to bring.  If she were inclined to comment, she would have dropped her playthings and signed or asked for her talker.  But with the regal countenance of the Queen on Queen’s Day, she choses only to gaze endearingly at her boosters from the comfort of her chariot. 

On a busy corner, using the energy the holiday infuses, we easily pass a small hoard of school-goers upon the crossing guard’s gesture of release.

On the other side, we spot a pair of girls just a grade or two above Addie.  I recognize them from pick up time.  They move off the sidewalk early on and lock their gaze on Addie.  They do not greet her or smile, but stand without moving, staring. 

We are upon them. "Hi." I address the girls first with a grin. Then, "Addie, do you want to say hi to the girls?" I ask.  As I guessed would happen, Addie makes no motion to put her toys down or even to wave to the starers.  I turn back to the girls "Nope.  She's with you guys!  She doesn't want to say good morning either.  Maybe tomorrow!"  This last called out in a chipper voice as we leave them behind.

This celebration of Late Starts foists on me the faith that these girls will have their late start tomorrow -  tomorrow they will greet Addie and wait expectantly for her response.

There is an outright throng where Addie lines up - the little junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten kids have to share their 9:05 peaceful line up spots with the entire rest of the school on late start days.  The teachers of those lines of tiny kids are careful with them, standing guard.  The bigger kids are still buzzing from the extra sleep, the later breakfast, the extra episode of Sponge Bob.  They weave and bob, slipping in and out of pockets and lines of people, germinating the happy lightness of the day to others. Some parents await the bell eagerly, ready to get into the office.  Other parents, for I locked smiling eyes with a few, grin the grin of those in the midst of mirthful, satisfying chaos.

For today we celebrate Late Starts!  We celebrate all who undertake them; today Addie and the other Late Starters lead us all.

{Disclaimer lest you conclude this level of delusion may interfere with my ability to care for my children - all facts and exchanges on the walk to school are factual, while my perception of it as a holiday holds less verisimilitude. The holiday is a fit of fancy, a mind game.  But it’s a mind game I get to win, hands down, one Wednesday every single month from September to May.  My kids like me better when I win.}

Farmer John Cheese And Other Joy



  1. Well, here you go again Terri! I am so amazed at how you look at situations like this and turn them in to a beautiful masterpiece. You remind me that I need to slow down, take an extra hour in the day, walk instead of drive, chat with the neighborhood kids, and celebrate my kids being who they are, just the way they are. Thanks for the inspiration. I think I need to cut and paste all of you blog and Hopeful Parents writings, put them into a book and make sure I read at least one a day. I ALWAYS get that warm fuzzy feeling when I read your writings!
    Write on friend, write on.