The excited chatter of little voices always made Lois smile, and today was no exception. Lois made her way over to the front window in her home as quickly as her feeble legs could carry her. Children in brand new outfits chosen specially for this day, with brightly colored backpacks and eager expressions on their freshly scrubbed faces were being shepherded across the street by anxious and excited looking parents. Cars were driving at a snail’s pace, waiting for their chance to turn into the parking lot, while older children in vibrant yellow vests were acting as crossing guards. It was a scene of joyful mayhem and excited nerves.
The first day of school, at last.
The summer months always seemed to drag by so slowly, with only brief glimpses of children on their bikes, or if she was lucky, a family would descend on the playground for an afternoon picnic. Lois loved to watch the children play from her front window. Her recliner was positioned in a way to not only best catch the light streaming through it while she read from her vast collection of books, but to also have a lovely vantage point looking out across her front lawn, and across the street at Edison Elementary School.
Lois had taught at that very school for over thirty years. Sometimes she taught the older classes, but her favorites were the young ones, just learning to read. She especially loved to watch the transformation the children made as they discovered an entire new world opening to them, through the joy of reading.
It had nearly killed Lois to leave her position at the school, but she had had too many health issues and it was getting increasingly difficult for her to stand for any length of time. That was twenty years ago. It seemed like a lifetime ago now. Either that, or just yesterday.
When Lois and her husband Benny bought this house over fifty years before, they felt that it was the perfect location, across the street from the neighborhood school. They had a little boy, Henry, who learned to walk out in the front lawn. Lois loved the idea of sending little Henry to school across the street and waiting for him in the front drive when school got out. He never made it to school, however. Fate had other plans.
The summer Henry turned three, he became very ill. Doctors determined that he had contracted an aggressive form of polio. It hit his little body so swiftly that none of the treatments did any good. He was gone within two weeks.
The months after Henry’s passing were very difficult for Lois and Benny. Everything reminded them of their little boy and the things he would never do. When children began pouring back into the school in early fall, Lois mourned the loss over again, the heart-wrenching truth that Henry would never be one of those beaming faces making his way across the street.
For years they tried to have more children, but Lois was never able to carry another pregnancy to term. Instead, she satisfied her maternal need by adopting the children she taught every day. And she was just as beloved to those kids as they were necessary to her heart.
The sudden loss of Benny was eased through her work, but that was thirty years ago. She now no longer had work to keep her occupied. But the school still stood there, a reassuring presence in her world of grief and loss. It had undergone multiple face-lifts over the years, the last of which took half a year to complete. But it was still the same school.
Lois stood eagerly at the window now, watching as the noisy procession made their way across the street. She spotted a small boy, who looked like he would topple over from the weight and size of his Spiderman backpack strapped on his back. Lois chuckled to herself. She watched as they waited at the crosswalk. His mother, who was holding his hand, leaned in to give him a kiss and a reassuring smile. It must be his first day of kindergarten, Lois thought. He was so small.
Suddenly and without reason, the boy shifted his position in a way that made him face Lois’ house. He stood there, looking toward her standing in the window. The crossing guard motioned for their group to cross the street, so his mother gently tugged him forward with her hand in his. He remained rooted to the spot. Finally a smile bloomed across his face and he gave an energetic wave toward the old woman standing on the other side of the glass.
It was so unexpected that Lois didn’t respond for a moment. It was a moment too long, because the boy relented to his mother’s pull and turned toward the street before she was able to reciprocate the greeting. She waved to his retreating back, his little brown head barely peeking out over the top of the Spiderman backpack.
A choking sigh escaped Lois’ lips as she eased herself onto her recliner. He had looked so much like Henry. The flood of memories of her own little brown-haired boy running in the grass almost overtook her. The difficulty with old age is that what occurred many years ago has a tendency to feel like it was yesterday. She could remember with such clarity her life as a young mother, whereas last week seemed like only a blur.
Lois decided that she would stay in her recliner until it was time for her little Henry to leave the school, then she would be ready to greet him. She couldn’t disappoint her sweet boy by not being at the end of the drive to welcome him home.