Today was my son-in-law’s birthday (tomorrow my daughter’s) and so we went to one of my favorite places in Portland— The Kennedy School. Built in 1916, it’s the classic elementary school. A simple but aesthetic architecture with wide halls and class photos (next to art work and posters about jazz musicians). It closed as a school in 1975 due to declining enrollment, was slated for demolition and then rescued by the McMenamin Brothers, who bought it and turned it into a hotel. The auditorium is a movie theater, the cafeteria a restaurant, the classrooms hotel rooms with the chalkboards intact. We had a hearty brunch there and while the bill was on its way, I took Zadie out in the halls. She ran gleefully up and down, jumping off steps, galloping up and down rampways, writing on the chalkboard in the hall. She had a good time at the Portland Children’s Museum yesterday, but she had a GREAT time running in the school hallways. I let her enjoy it now, knowing that she won’t be getting that chance again soon!
Later we went to a bicycle shop and she had a pretty good time going up and down stairs, buckling the seat belt in the bike extension, swishing the streamers on the bike handle. In her work at KaBoom!, the non-profit dedicated to building children’s playgrounds in communities, daughter Kerala has done lots of research on children’s play and come to the same conclusions as everyone who has ever looked seriously at the world of children’s play. Playgrounds are great, but so are trees and streams and the boxes that toys come in and a ball or two. For Zadie, the whole world is a playground and everything an opportunity for her curious fingers, her energetic body, her curious mind, her emerging language. No wonder we fall in love with the little ones so easily. They remind us of what we once had that got calcified by facts and figures and too much pre-packaged entertainment as we grew up into that thing called an adult.
One more day to be in her Zen-like presence before returning to work on Tuesday. But what work it is! A lifetime of playing with the children, setting their imaginations free, getting their fingers busy with drums, recorders and xylophones, focusing their exuberantly screaming voices toward powerfully expressive singing voices and reminding them to walk in the halls, but to run in the music room— and freeze at the signal! If I had to grow up to be an adult, not a bad way to go.