Getting to Ashcroft Elementary School early to play a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose!” before my kindergarten class meant that my brother also had to get to school early. Knowing how much this meant to me, my mother made it happen. My brother Larry remarked one day as I was getting out of the car, “Did you know – You walk like a penguin?” I’ve laughed about that for years, as I oh-so-carefully navigate my footsteps across the often icy sidewalk to my car. I am extra careful, and yes, I do waddle a bit like a penguin. But I really don’t care – I just don’t want to fall. But this always brings back the memory of that day, and of my brother tolerating my social need of a good game of “Duck! Duck! Goose!” before class.
Summer evenings we would return to Ashcroft, where my brother would play softball. Though I never understood the game very well, I loved yelling, “Hey batter, batter!!!” from behind the fence. And I loved the smell of the fresh cut grass, and watching Dad and Mr. Long encourage the boys on his team. Afterwards, we always got to ride home in the back of Dad’s pickup truck and stop at the Dairy Whip on Plymouth Road.
As years passed, I’d walk across that field to get to my friend Sally’s house. In the fall, we’d walk across it to get to the yearly festival at St. Robert’s. And when we were finally old enough to get our driver’s licenses, my friend Sally and I would drive past the school, feeling mature and “old,” as we recalled the good old days at Ashcroft Elementary.
A couple of years ago, I drove with an old friend past the school. I stopped and took a photo of the front door where many mornings I enjoyed playing “Duck! Duck! Goose!” before class. But this week, I learned the old school was torn down – Gone! No longer there!
Isn’t it funny how the simplest, and oftentimes silliest things that seem so meaningless when we are young, mean so much more as we grow old? That school was a landmark in my childhood, and now? Now, it’s gone.
I feel like I need to take a trip back to the old neighborhood. I need to walk around the block, recalling the cracks in the sidewalk I knew so well that I could navigate my yellow bike with the banana seat, perfectly around them. I need to remember the porch I jumped off of with Mary and Julie and Debbie. I need to put my hand on the tree I used to love to climb, and ride my bike around the block recalling what summers were like when we left the house at 9 a.m., and were home before the street lights came on. I want to walk past the old houses of Michelle, and Christine, and Laura. I want to eat at Mama Mia’s Pizzaria and Mr. Chicken, go to the Mai Kai Movie Theater in Livonia, and stop for an ice cream at the Dairy Whip on Plymouth Road. I want to skate (and pretend like I know how to play hockey) on our home made ice rink that year after year after year ruined our front lawn, (but Dad never cared).
I want to have sleep-overs in the tent in the backyard, and eat Fig Newtons and wake up to a bunch of squirrels wanting to be friends. (My mother wanted to kill us for that one!) I want to eat fresh rhubarb from the garden, hang clothes on a clothes line, and run around in between them playing tag. I want to jump off the porch after it lightnings and try to make it to the street and back before the thunder rolls.
Life was so simple back then, and oh, so sweet. I don’t want to go to work tomorrow. I want to be a kid again. Just for a day….. Just ONE day! And I want to play “Duck! Duck! Goose!”
But I can’t, because doggone it, I’m a grownup now. And that means tomorrow morning, I’ll be waddling my way into work just like a penguin.