When I was a child and participating in “Field Day” events at school, it was usually a full-day event and took place sometime during the last several weeks of class. The races were timed, the distances jumped were measured, etc, and when it was all done and over, some people were awarded prize ribbons and certificates for their accomplished feats. Field Day appears to be different today, at least different in measurements of distance and time…for the first and second-graders, anyway. Maybe it’s still a competitive process in the higher grades, as it was when I was a child, and as it was when my older kids were participating in this annual event in the recollections of my memory, but today, as my little one partook of this pre-springtime event, there were no markings of time and distance…those things or notions were replaced with a lot of jumping up and down and handclapping and high-fives. I guess everyone won…except in the tug-of-war. It was double-elimination and the victors were celebrated as the “best” of second-grade. They wore green shirts and appeared to be larger and were comprised of more bodies than the other second-grade classes were…and they won three times and didn’t lose once, so they were the best.
My little one asked me yesterday if I would be able to attend his Field Day events today. I hadn’t been prepared to do so, given my normal middle-of-the-week-days-off routine that I try to maintain, but given that none of the routinely done things were of supreme importance, and given that this was not going to be a full-day event, I thought I could find an hour or so to spend at the little one’s school with him…an hour or so out of a two-hour event. Ok.
I stopped at the corner convenience store to get a bottle of water for my family’s Field Day participant and then parked in front of his school and walked around to the rear of the property where I had earlier seen groups of kids with similarly colored shirts running around or jumping in some organized and supervised fashion, as compared to lunch-time recess periods where there is no semblance of patterned behavior. Anyway, I spied my little one on the enclosed tennis court riding a miniature skateboard type contrivance…on his knee, scooting about in his red shirt, away from the event participants…on his own…head down and riding about in a singular and individual event of his own. I approached the chain-linked fence and said “Hey there!” My little one initially jumped up onto the fence and started to climb, but looked up and realized the ten feet would be a bit much to scale and dropped to the ground and turned and ran out the gate and around to where I was on the other side of the fence. It was a full-body hug that greeted me as I embraced him and noted his wet hair and shirt. His smile was big and his speech animated as he told me what was happening and where he and his class were supposed to go, immediately, as the lady just blew the air-horn that signified that the classes were to change events. The little one ran off to catch-up with his teacher as she marched in the direction of the long-jump track and pit that had been decorated with different colored construction paper signs that didn’t appear to mean anything, as they were not at marked intervals and nobody appeared to notice them until one of the contestants landed full-shin onto one of them. The child was checked for blood and bruise and the little papered stick was again inserted into the edge of the pit where it had earlier stood unchecked. My little one stood and milled-about with his friends, alternately drinking from his water bottle or recapping it and placing it into his shorts pocket. Somehow or other, he managed to stay toward the rear of the group of children who were progressing ever forward to it being their turn to run and jump, and in a few moments, he came running over to me and leaned against me and started telling me about his friend Justin being a real dork…as he stumbled over his words to give me examples of such dorkiness, but couldn’t find any, so just reasserted with a laugh, that he really was a dork and could I stay there so he could get Justin and bring him over to meet me. I told him that it would be ok, but asked first if he didn’t need to go and jump or something with the rest of his class. My little one said that we would go over there and see, but didn’t seem too concerned…as he walked over to Justin and kicked the wall and said something and turned to look at me and watched as Justin also kicked the wall and they talked for a few seconds and then both came running over to me. The introduction was less formal than I had thought it would be, given that my little one is very fond of making formal introductions with his friends, but greetings were made, the little one asserted again that Justin was a dork, and laughed and looked down at his shoes poking the dirt, and glanced sideways at Justin, trying to find an example, again, of his dorkiness…and still couldn’t…and then another kid came over with another less than formal introduction…and then the horn blew again and they all ran off together to participate in the Iceberg Relay. Strange, I don’t remember that event from all of the Field Days of my youth. Maybe it’s a new-teacher generational thing…or something more fitting of the earlier-than-spring-time Field Days of Arizona, as opposed to my early-summer Field Days of Germany. At any rate, the kids stretched into a line, full class length, and passed a two-liter soda-bottle shaped chunk of ice to each other in the full-length line of kids from one end of the class line to the other and then cheered as they were finished and won or didn’t win and I guess it didn’t or doesn’t matter…as the train rumbled past the southern edge of the school ground and honked or blew its own horn and clattered and clattered in its passing of its freighted self beyond the groups of kids and their same-colored shirts.
And my little one came over to me and leaned into me again and said he wondered if he could go home with me when it came time for me to leave, as he looked at the ground and mumbled his words and kicked the pebble or grass or something down there by his kicking and poking foot. He said the stuff they were going to do after lunch was probably so boring that he thought he’d fall asleep in class so wouldn’t it be better if he just came home with me…as it sounded like his chin was quivering. I told him that he’d probably be fine…and that it seems to make him sad when I come to school to see him…and I wanted to take him home then, or take him to the book store, or run by McDonalds and get him his favorite lunch with an M-n-M McFlurry for dessert…I wanted to give him the world because he asked for it, because he asked me for it…and he sensed the emptiness or meaninglessness of the day’s events and wanted to read, again, the book that he was reading in the truck on the way to school this morning, or climb in his swing-set tree-house kind of thing in his backyard with his dog watching him…and when he came running over to me later, when he was supposed to be participating in the 40 yard-dash, with the two little girls from his class, Arianna and Paris, they asked me if my little one really was a scientist…and how could I do anything other than answer that yes, he was working on being a scientist and he studies volcanoes and the bugs in his yard and he holds a vet-clinic in his bedroom when his dog is sick…so yes, he’s like a scientist, really.
And I was happy and sad when the last event was over and the kids in all of their different and same colored shirts aligned themselves into those lines by shirt color and teacher and marched and skipped or walked and made it, somehow, off the playground and away and back toward the building where they would spend the afternoon…as my little one went dutifully away in his sad or thoughtful self, walking and tossing his water bottle from one hand to the other or holding it still and kicking the air with a black-belt-ninja karate move…and going his dutiful way, back into school as I walked and went away without him…and Field Day was over…so soon and done.
I passed around the block again today after dropping-off the little one at school, after I watched him walk over to where the morning line forms, place his backpack on the ground and then walk-wander out onto the playground obviously looking for someone to approach and greet for the day, offer something some comment or something and then begin his day with companionship or something…and there was nobody nearby so he ran further out into the playground with head and eyes up and still searching for a familiar face that would be welcoming of him and his morning presence…and he couldn’t find one…as he looked around and peered back at me across the way…looking for someone and finding none and looking at me or in my direction again…and there were no kids by me…and he walked about slowly, heading back to the line-up area and probably glad that the bell rang telling everyone to come in from the yard and get in their places on the concrete and line…and was it a relief? I don’t know. He’s alone inside himself and around others sometimes and a lot of times. It resonates with me, somehow. He was alone amidst dozens and more of kids, his peers, classmates, age-mates and then. I don’t know if he was lonely, though. I don’t know if he’ll be lonely for the three hours that he’s there today, as it’s early-release day…that thing that comes once a month and rescues him from the classroom and whatnot of being at school and around and among those that he doesn’t really relate to, somehow….he sees their faces but doesn’t entirely know what their expressions mean…he responds to their anecdotes by telling something of his own that may or may not have anything to do with what they were talking about…I have a helicopter. He’s in his gray-green hooded and furred parka with his Transformer’s backpack and his pocketed blue jeans and green and black Sketchers tennies that used to light-up when he walked or stamped his feet and his gray eyes search the bricks on the side of the school wall and I see his hooded self turn and talk to his teacher who is bending attentively to listen to him as she continues to look around, not like his teacher last year who would fix her eyes on and attend to only him or whomever when she was listening and talking to him or whomever, and I wondered what it meant this morning, did he start the exchange or did she? Is he telling her about “wouldn’t it be cool to find the sail-shaped spine bone thing from the back of a stegosaurus?” or something like that, or is it that today really is early-release so it’s ok that he doesn’t have a lunch today unlike last Thursday when I didn’t pack him one because the calendar from his teacher wrongly identified last Thursday as early-release and she had to call me on my cell as I was watching the time as I wandered through the book store so I could go get him and rescue him from the confines and duty of school when he really wanted to be home on his own computer or talking to his dog or asking for more taquitos and “Can I please watch Tom and Jerry and the Magic Ring because that’s what I always do when I’m eating taquitos.” He turned and looked for me again today as he was making that last round of a corner and into the school…and waved. He does that sometimes…not always…and I never know when he’s going to do it, so I always stay and watch until he’s inside and beyond my sight, or beyond where he can see me, just in case. It would be sad if he turned to wave goodbye and I wasn’t there. What would he think?