“Okay, boys, it’s safe to cross now.”
Ginny was the crossing guard at the busy intersection next to Kittredge Elementary School. She had blown her whistle, and the cars had all stopped.
In the morning and afternoon, she served hundreds of small children walking to school or back to their homes, but at lunchtime, she belonged to me.
Just my two brothers and me.
We were the only students at the elementary school who went home for lunch. We lived just three blocks from the school. So as the other kids ate in the cafeteria and went out to recess on the playground, we made the short walk home for lunch with our mom. Rain or shine, through snowstorms and freezing cold, we made the trek to a warm lunch and a warm heart.
Mom had to make sure we were back to school on time, so she always had lunch ready, and she had prepared something else for our daily nourishment. A book. While we ate our lunch, mom would read to us.
You see, our mom was a first-grade teacher before becoming a mom, and she could bring any book to life. We started with “Lad, a Dog” which talked about the loyalty and love of a great collie for his owner and master. Then, we got to know Mr. Bilbo Baggins as she read the adventures of “The Hobbit” to us over a few months. That was so enthralling, she went on to read the entire Tolkien Trilogy to us over the next year and a half. We heard of adventure and loyalty, and courage in the face of adversity. Day after day, the spoken message and the experience of being together as a family began to sink in.
As we listened to each episode, she encouraged us to think about the messages that each chapter and paragraph provide. The honor and determination of small little beings to make a difference in the world. The difference between good and evil, and how hard it can be to believe in yourself when facing insurmountable odds. Or just the sense of having done something worthwhile by defending the weak against domination. Then she’d end with, “These are really books about us, not about some far-off place or people,” and send us off with a hug to scurry back to school on time.
The stories were thrilling and moving, and we looked forward to each page and chapter, week after week.
Looking back now, I can see that mom had planned all this out. We had moved to this town when I was in 2nd grade. My older brother was in 3rd grade and my younger brother had just started kindergarten. And when we moved there, mom had insisted on this house. This house just three blocks from the elementary school. She had a plan that no other mom in town had… to feed and nourish her three sons every day by having them come home for lunch.
And not just lunch, but family time. Mom time.
She got the town to provide the crossing guard just for us. She bucked the system and overcame our complaints that “all the other kids get to go to recess.” She made it such a meaningful, worthwhile, nourishing experience that we felt that those poor other kids playing kickball or dodgeball on the playground were the ones missing out.
We were the lucky few who got to go home and spend the lunch hour with our mom every day. Even though other kids would sometimes tease or ridicule us, they just didn’t understand. They didn’t know how exciting and memorable our dash home for lunch had come to be.
We were boys, and we had no idea how much that time of sharing and bonding would affect our future lives and relationships. But mom knew. And mom took the road less traveled, even the road untraveled, to make sure she left a lasting impression on her three precious and growing sons.
She showed us that everything we do affects those around us, and when we go the extra mile, we make a lasting impact. I hope I can do things for others that will make as much impact, and leave as much of an impression on them as my mom’s lunchtime readings did for me.