Monday, October 1, 2012

This Place I Live: The Drive to School

I drive the girls to school every morning, and pick them up every afternoon. It requires that I put on a bra, and load everyone in the car, and drive to two different schools in my very environmentally unfriendly vehicle. The total in-car time for both trips is right around an hour and a quarter. It is inconvenient, and yet I don't mind at all.

The morning drive is significantly different than the afternoon one. Bellies full of pancakes, sleep still in their eyes, my children are as quiet as they ever are. Julia might comment on the weather, Katie might read, Henry - still in his pajamas - might make quiet brrrmmm brrrmmm sounds as he runs a toy car over his leg. The radio is rarely on. Mostly, we just watch.

It is a quick trip to Katie's school; six miles down a freeway that seems to cut through a forest. Overnight, the trees have gone from green to a soft yellow. There is no traffic; there is never any traffic. Off the exit ramp, past the gas station and hardware store and we're there. Middle school drop off is everything that middle schoolers are not - quick, effortless, organized. Katie ducks out with a quick kiss and the littles and I drive on.

If we're lucky, we get behind a school bus. I like watching the bus chug down the road, in no big hurry. It stops in front of long driveways where mothers wrapped in worn robes stand, one hand clutching the top of the robe closed, the other holding a cup of coffee. Mornings are getting cooler here, pants are being worn for the first time in months. A mother, unprepared, watches a small boy board the bus, the hem of his jeans high, exposing white socks pulled over still tan ankles. She will have to go shopping soon.

As the bus pulls away, she raises a hand, and does not turn away until the bus is out of sight. She walks back down the driveway to the house, calling dogs and shooing cats. The house is the same house that dots much of the landscape here - modest and square, set back far from the road on more land than they can out to good use. It is different than the city-side of the county, where big houses sit on small lots, crowded together, putting the value in what sits on the land instead of the land itself.

But these people know, land is everything.

There are only a few miles separating the middle school from the elementary school, most of it farmland. Some of it pasture. On some mornings, cows or horses will be so far out to pasture, you can hardly tell them apart. On others, they lean over fences and chew slowly and give you that deep animal stare that seems to say, if only I had thumbs. The little ones will exclaim, cow!, as if there were an elephant on the side of the road, and not an animal they've seen nearly every day of their lives.

But mostly, we pass corn. Rows and endless rows of corn. For the first few weeks of school, it stands tall and green and proud. Slowly, the fields age and turn brown and brittle until one day, the corn is gone, cut down to a bristle brush. There is no need for calendars or proclamations by weathermen, the corn knows and tells us - fall is here.

Where there is not corn, there are soybeans.

Soybeans. There used to be tobacco in those fields, I can nearly guarantee it.

Then the last half mile, up the hill where the sun breaks through the low fog. A red silo. A small house. Acres and acres of fertile ground and the ghosts of generations who've worked it. A dog and a rusty mailbox on a crooked post and then, out of nowhere, a little school. A line of cars and smiling teachers, hustling children out and collecting backpacks and lunchboxes and Julia kisses me once, then again, before running into the building.

The morning ride home is shorter, down a different road peppered with newer neighborhoods and small businesses. I am suddenly lonely, and turn on the radio. I look in the rearview mirror at Henry, and he waits to see if I'll say the same thing I say every morning. I do. "So, what are we going to do today, Boy-o?"

24 comments:

  1. I love this one! Thanks for sharing it.

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  2. Lovely, Kelly. I can see that corn.

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  3. Replace fields of corn with city dumpsters and rat-infested alleys and I'm right there with you Kelly! Damn I want to move.

    And I say the same thing to Joey every day when he arrives home from preschool. Joey's response usually involves Pop Tarts and the park.

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    1. Ha! The park is requested daily here, too. We're on our second day of rainy weather, and it's almost more than a little boy can stand.

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  4. When I was in the first part of my senior year in high school, I was an out-of-district student and drove myself forty-five minutes each way to school through territory very similar to your daily trips. I whined about it a lot and sometimes felt like I couldn't stand it one more second--but then, I would see horses silhouetted against a hilltop by the setting sun or turning leaves or people immersed in their gorgeous, simple lives and it would change everything.

    Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. Boring becomes breathtaking, the older I get. I'm glad it reminded you of a good place,

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  5. In my neighbourhood, they're in the middle of tearing down all the cute little fifties bungalows, sitting on their large lots, and replacing them with monster houses that will only allow tiny gardens (if that) around the perimeters. To me, it's crazy. I'd much rather be sitting outside, wrapped in a cozy sweater, enjoying the weather than sitting inside my giant echoing house, insulated from the world. I obviously live in the wrong neighbourhood.

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    1. I vacillate between wanting wide open space and craving constant human interaction. But I have to say that there is something about those fields that quiets my mind, and that is a rare thing,

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  6. POETRY!!!!!!!!!! You have a gift, my friend.

    best,
    MOV

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  7. MOV sent me, and I'm glad she did. Your post is lovely. I shall follow you, and I hope you'll visit me and consider following me, too.

    Love,
    Janie Junebug
    www.dumpedfirstwife.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks, Janie! I will absolutely come see you.

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  8. Beautifully written. Now I have to go read more of your writing. My drives are rarely calm, quiet, or in any way peaceful, but I think that has to do more with my destination than anything (confined to a cubicle).

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    1. Do you ever get there, and have no recollection of how you got there? That happened to me all the time when I worked, which is probably not very reassuring to my fellow drivers.

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  9. I really enjoyed this post! I was right there with you.

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  10. This was lovely.

    I'm a dude, and basically never say the word "lovely." So you should feel very proud.

    If only everyone could see the world the way you see it.

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    1. High praise indeed, Youngman, Thank you.

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  11. Beautiful Kelly! You really captured a moment in time.

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  12. You know this is just gorgeous. I can taste the coffee and smell the fields. I love the little boy's tan ankles peeking out from his jeans and white socks.
    Just gorgeous. All of it.

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  13. The details in this are delicious. I'm all teary, and part of it is because I can relate, but another part is something I can't quite yet define. It makes me want to slow down. It makes me want to connect - with my kids, with the day. To notice. I love it.

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  14. I have been blog hopping tonight and found you through Mothers of Brothers. This is truly a beautiful post. I love mornings and the stillness and quiet moods they bring. Even my two year old is tamer in the morning. Thanks for a great read tonight.

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