I put the Prince Mustangs t-shirt in my car last week, while they were on Fall Break. It sat on the passenger's seat, next to me, a reminder that love was just a few miles down the road. I found an excuse every day. I was hungry, I was achy, I missed TBG, I just didn't feel like it. Today, there were no excuses. I told JannyLou that we had to drive separately to Pilates, and I headed down Oracle to Prince without doing any thinking at all.
I put on the t-shirt and my sneakers and my coat of many colors, its pockets filled with rolled up pages of stickers. Buzzed in through the security doors, I signed in, chatted up the administrative staff who keep the wheels greased so that learning can occur in peace, and headed outside. I was on my way to the cafeteria; the third graders had a different agenda entirely. I was ambushed before I made any progress at all.
"GRANDMA!!' "GRANNY!!!" "MISS SUZI!!!"
Why in the world did I put this off?
This is the cohort I met when I first visited the school, back when they were kindergarteners. Now they are nearly as tall as I am, eight and nine year olds, little ones who were once even littler. They know that they are special; I've been telling them so every since they can remember. I'm part and parcel of their elementary school experience, a fount of stickers and Old MacDonald Had a Farm and stories about being shot in the butt.
Kids love to say butt.
No one noticed that I was walking without poles... no one but me, that is. It was a long way around the playground, but I made it without stopping. I had to stop singing by the third quarter of the lap, but no one noticed. I stopped at the bench under the tree and waved good-bye to that group as I welcomed the fourth graders, some of whom are definitely taller than I am. They are less likely to want to hold my hand, preferring to walk backwards in front of me, sharing stories and correcting my posture. They take a proprietary interest in my well-being, and I can feel the love.
We stopped so that I could catch my breath and distribute more stickers and tell a story.... the kids are big on stories.... so I tell them about Christina-Taylor and going to see Gabby and about the young man who made bad decisions and how I got shot ... in the butt.
Someone always asks about C-T. I tell them the truth, and we share the moment, and then, because they are nine and it's noon and the sun is shining and we are here to enjoy it, I start to walk again, telling them that they can take care of me the way that Christina would have taken care of me, by walking with me and keeping me from wobbling, and by hugging me and loving me and holding my fingers... all ten of them.... and helping me heal.
By the time the first graders were ready to come out, my hip and I were ready to go home. There was a spring in my achy, wobbly, uneven step, powered by the explosions of love that were going off in my heart. They did it again, those Prince Mustangs. They helped me heal.