1974 – 5-years-old, “I’m walking to my first day of kindergarten all by myself…”
It was that summer of 1974 before I began kindergarten. Mark, who was a year ahead of and had taught me to swing on the hand-me-down swingset in the backyard, was my important escort for Orientation Day. The intent was to ”try out” this drastic 5-year-old life change with a friend. I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to start.
A few weeks before school began, I informed my mom I would be walking to school the first day by myself. She disagreed.
Over those next 20 days, we argued like WWF pros. She threw down–”I was too young! There were TWO very busy streets to be crossed (without lights or stop signs) before getting to the crosswalk zones around the school. I might get lost. …Or worse.”
I would take Birch to Duportail, Duportail to Lee, cross, cross again, homefree! I knew this neighborhood like my own hand (and I did–she would have been horrified). “I cross streets every day no problem, mom,” I emphatically countered every argument with absolute non-negotiation. I was going to walk to school by myself. Period.
Then one day, she said “Ok.” I was stunned and thrilled! That was easy! Monday, September fourth dawned fresh and crisp with promise. Mom made her last-ditch effort to walk with me. I said, “No,” and headed confidently into my 5-year-old future.
Without hesitation, I marched down our street, cut across a side street, through someone’s backyard, then down a short block to the busy intersection. I looked both ways–twice–and crossed like a pro. Another half block and the crossing guard saw me safely onto the playground.
Twenty-five years later, I was telling the story at a family reunion and laughing about how independent and fearless I had been at 5-years old and how mom had let me do it. My mother cut in, “You absolutely were and I was scared to death! But there was no talking you out of it. I had to follow you all the way to school, hiding behind bushes and cars so you wouldn’t see me until I knew you were there safe and sound!”
I could see 26-year old Audrey like some kind of kindergarten private investigator, tailing me to Marcus Whitman Elementary that day… then silently disappearing back down the streets, unseen.
Thank you for finding a way to trust us both, mom.