I walked Eli to his first day at Laycock Primary School today. He rode a scooter we had purchased for him the day before yesterday. We were initially a little nervous about him riding on Day One– the possibilities of some real-life nightmare where you arrive at school for your first day crying, soaked to the bone, and bleeding profusely from a scalp wound was almost enough to trigger an executive veto from Lana & I– but he seemed so EARNEST about NEEDING to ride his scooter (which has ORANGE stickers, not red like it showed on the box which is EVEN BETTER), we acquiesced. Did I mention it was raining? Yes, I recognize that there is a certain stereotype involved concerning English weather, but it hasn’t been raining much since we got here– but it was this morning. Anyway, he rode, I walked. He in his new, pristine (un-bloodied) school uniform (navy sweatshirt, yellow polo, navy trousers), new matte black helmet, and new blue Columbia parka. I was remembering other first days– kindergarten, for instance, where Lana & I were both… well… teary– and feeling generally nostalgic, when suddenly I realized we were heading down a (relatively) steep curved hill with construction works across the pavement (you know… what we call the “sidewalk”) at the base of the hill. I asked him to stop & walk his scooter, and he executed a rather smart, kinda complicated braking move (which ended with him grabbing the scooter up & handing it off to me to be carried– very smooth), and we walked down the hill. I gave the scooter back when we were past the construction, and he rolled on. We were one road away from his school (since they don’t have anything approaching a grid system for traffic, this is a the nearest approximation of “a block”) when, between gliding pumps of his right foot, he casually said, “You would NEVER know I’ve never ridden a scooter before!” Taking my shocked, gibbering silence for approbation, he continued, “And I only fell that once…” Here began my response with a very clever, “Fall? When? WHAT?” He replied, “You know, when I fell stopping [sic, recte while stopping] on the hill & you grabbed my hand.” I chose to keep schtum & see what other jewels of unknown import would drip from this cracked treasure trove. “You know– I fell, you grabbed my hand & took the scooter away?” I immediately (and, I hope, kindly) corrected his misapprehension about “taking the scooter away” (holding back my shrieking internal commentary about wishing I had taken the scooter away the moment we had returned from the toy store & thrown it over the garden shed), and stuttered on into an incomprehensible series of questions / statements about how every other kid in the neighborhood back home had a scooter and was he sure he hadn’t even GOTTEN ON one before and “No, It Really Looked Like You Knew What You Were Doing” and above all why was this COMING TO MY ATTENTION NOW? He was non-plussed. Very casual. “Oh, I always wanted to try one, and I thought it looked like something I could do.”
I guess ours is not to reason why, but to be glad when our well-meaning seven-year-olds DON’T go careening down the street & flatten themselves against some unsuspecting soul’s Citroën.
The final chapter of this story (or epilogue of a novelette, given my wind-baggery) came later. Tonight, after supper, Eli wrote a postcard to his class back at Acacia Elementary today in Fullerton– I include an image here, and let the highlighted area deliver the final “blow.”
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So, at 3:30, we came to pick Eli up. Sans scooter (though he WILL probably ride again tomorrow, all things being equal). He was unfazed– didn’t even ask about it. It sounds like the first day went well. They had gym, which seems like another possibility for new-kid mortification, but he thought it was cool; they did gymnastics, which “turned out to be a lot of fun.” Lana and I managed to hide our bemusement at the casually mentioned fact that the entire (co-ed) class changed into their gym uniforms together– remembering that this area has a high Muslim population, no less– and asked if any part of the day (including… say.. THAT one) had caused any embarrassment. He said no. The conversation really concluded later tonight, though, when he confided that he was glad he had been wearing his black bear boxers. “‘Cause they look like cool shorts, anyway.”