It was my first year back to full-time teaching on a regular basis, and later that morning I was scheduled to meet with the Director of Instruction to review what was his first observation of my class this school year; however, it was also Halloween, and my youngest of four children was to partake in the annual Halloween parade around her elementary school, where parents arrive in droves to wave and smile as their kids proudly strut their stuff around the parking lot to the looping soundtrack of Thriller and… actually, just Thriller, over and over again, I think. It’s all I can ever hear through the hungry howls of younger siblings dressed as furry farm animals and irresistible infant insects.
I’ve been to this parade every year since 2006, and like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day, I have the whole event down pat from my view near the flagpole. Standing on thirteen years of previous parades, no longer enveloped in the newness of early parenthood, watching another wave of younger parents, I instantly perceived which moms were going to start talking for five seconds and lose track of their two-foot dinosaurs. This one is going to freak out in 3, 2, 1… “Archer? … Where … Archer? ARCHER!” Take it easy, girlfriend, everything is okay. Archer is behind the bench, just like last year’s Archer. My kid was Archer in 2007. “You scared Mommy. Do not walk away from me again.” Scared, of course, but just wait. Sometime around 2030, you’ll drop Archer off in a cinderblock chamber of a dorm room with a new comforter, a can of Lysol, and a plastic laundry basket, and drive away praying the most intense prayer of your life that he will always stay within reach.
This day, however, was not about that short dinosaur of mine, it was about my nine-year-old Lucille Ball look-alike, who was charged with excitement for what would be her first and only third-grade Halloween parade. Therefore, I submitted my half-day PTO request and had just enough time to get to the parade, wave to the child, and make it back to the city for the meeting. The weather was supposed to hold out for a little longer, but since I was dressed extra-professionally and actually tried to make my thin hair look nice with the flat iron, I grabbed the umbrella from the car before trotting up the street to the school lot. Good call, Mama, good call, I told myself.
As soon as I marked my spot near the flagpole with my high-heeled shoe, and smiled at some familiar faces, a large drop of water plunked down from a cloud and landed on my head. Not to worry, this girl was prepared. Up went the umbrella, perhaps a smidgeon prematurely, but again… the hair. Soon, though, the rain was pattering repetitiously on the handheld waterproof dome, and I started to worry that the event would be canceled. The wind picked up and the water started to pour. My pants were drenched as a burst of sideways rain outsmarted everyone holding an umbrella. A puddle turned into a river, and parents scooped up their small sheep and cows, covered their bees and ladybugs with blankets, and charged toward the entrance of the school.
Ah, but it is no longer 2006. In 2019, teachers and administrators are hard-pressed to ensure the safety and security of all children in the building, regardless of who is standing outside the doors or what is powering through the neighborhood, so we braved the elements for several minutes until they were able to carefully admit us to a single space and provide a quick glimpse of the costumes, grade by grade. Water continued rolling down my previously styled hair, and the sleeves of my blouse clung to my chilled arms as I awaited my ten-second peek of my little Twerp with her classmates; surely, I had my doubts about the worthiness of this event with regard to my four hours of paid-time-off.
Just then, the art and phys ed teachers escorted her class to the front of the stage. I saw her red wig moving forward from behind the curtain, and the second she approached, her eyes frantically scanned the room full of parents, searching for me. No longer concerned about the sogginess or the fact that I’d have frizzy, air-dried hair for my meeting, I thought, “I’m here, baby,“ as I lifted my hand to wave to her. It took just a second or two for her to notice me, and the moment our eyes locked, she flashed a relieved smile. She stood there for less than a minute, but both of us managed to capture the preciousness of the fleeting moment before she was escorted off the stage and back to her classroom.
I later saw a handful of the newer moms grumbling on social media about being locked out of the school in the rain; they were likely unaware of what goes into planning such an occasion, and how difficult it has become for the administration to carry out fun events for families while complying with the laws. Sure, we got wet. It was inconvenient. I was a mess for my meeting. Some might have gotten a cold afterward. But the altitude of the thirteenth parade provides an unobstructed view. From there, it’s easier to realize that the feeling of worth and security that overcomes your children that moment when they spot you in the audience will remain when you leave them in the cinderblock chamber, hoping for the best, and it’s one of the things that will always keep them within reach. Slow down enough to catch those moments, and take it easy, girlfriend. Everything is going to be okay.