Aside from the stuff I might have forgotten, I remember everything from kindergarten to second grade. Most of all, I remember the dread that’d last from Sunday afternoon to Monday morning; until I’d eventually forget the weekend happened. The 7am air of Monday school mornings made my organs tremble. It sounds dramatic, and it felt dramatic. I remember wondering how everyone was acting so normal. My wondering would fade along with the weekend, and before long it was Tuesday.
When I went there, students at Mt. View Elementary would enter through different wings depending on what grade they were in. The 1st grade entrance had double doors, one of the handles would turn, but not the other. The handles looked as hefty as they were, and when you turned the handle that would, a series of mechanical clicks would make a wet, metallic sound. This sound concluded my and my mom’s walk to the first-grade entrance.
The path to the door was paved with anxiety and asphalt, and it ran lefthand adjacent to the faded northwest exterior of the school—the same school my mom went to when she was my age. Only then, there was probably less ivy and more color on the bricks. We’d walk hand-and-hand on the path she and my Nanny walked hand-and-hand on all those years earlier.
Tangent: When I was younger I thought life before color tv was actually in black and white.
Segue: “When did life start to be in color, mom?”
“What do you mean?” she answered, and then she explained. She didn’t explain the walk to the first-grade entrance like she did the evolution of entertainment, though; and I don’t think she could have. How can you describe to a 6 year old boy the pitfalls of existence?
Instead, we wouldn’t say much, and we would kick a rock down the final stretch. We picked a new one from the top of the path every day, and it’d take my mind off where I was headed—if only for 30 seconds. We’d take turns kicking it, watching as the dirt that once tucked it into the earth spun off it. While it was never said, it was always our goal to keep the rock on the path the entire way, until it hit the building’s concrete foundation at the end.
The rock that stands out in my memory was flat and smooth. Its matte-white body glowed in the sunlight as it skidded through the same 7am air that shook my guts. I’d watch from the first second of shoe-to-rock impact until it lost momentum, when I could make out the muted gold stripe down the center again—just in time for the next kick. I could see a divot in its belly. Thin, darkened lines stretched from inside of it, making it look like balled pizza dough that’s tucked into itself.
My Mom and I must have kicked a hundred different rocks that school year, none of which changed the makeup or direction of the path we kicked them on. I always knew why we were kicking rocks, but only recently have I understood the significance of it all.
When I find myself on an unavoidable path, I owe it to myself to pull a rock out from the dirt. I can change the narrative to soften the edges, and remember bad things aren’t all bad—or at least they don’t have to be. I still wonder how everyone is acting so normal, and they might wonder the same; so I stare at the moment in front of me like a rock with potential energy.