Sadly, I am about to break up with someone after having an 11-year relationship. Well, actually it isn’t an individual; it is a whole community of people. My two children have both gone from kindergarten through fifth grade and we have now outgrown our local .
It’s amazing how you can fall in love with a place and a neighborhood—especially when we weren’t even supposed to be part of it in the first place.
Thirteen years ago, my wife and I were in the midst of purchasing a home in Northern Westchester. This was perfect for us, as we wanted to have a little land, be closer to her office and also place a little distance between my mother-in-law and us. When at the last moment the seller of the home that we were supposed to purchase, an old Chappaqua teacher, got cold feet. I remember staring at her incredulously as she was crying on her front yard waxing on about her kids and how much the house meant to her through the years, especially the early ones.
So my very pregnant wife (in her 11th month) and I were left homeless with nothing but a pre-approval for a mortgage that we could barely afford. A family friend showed us this mess of a little home in a part of Scarsdale that we were completely unfamiliar with and we decided to buy our first “starter” home. The biggest selling feature of the house was that it was right next to an elementary school.
I have to say that the school has become one of the centers of life for both of my kids, and there has never been a shortage of playground outings and field games with others. The greatest part about our close proximity is the fact that for more than a decade we’ve walked and more importantly talked our kids to school. The conversations that have occurred, pep talks that have been given and fears that have been laid to rest cannot even be counted, and sadly will never get to be recreated in such a serene setting.
I think that the only times that we have bothered driving to school were in monsoon season or for the shipping of a paper mache diorama or even worse, the delivery of a diorama during a monsoon!
As great as our adjacency to the school is, truth is, it’s the people inside that have made our tenure there so wonderful. It reminds me a little of the classic show Cheers (with less drinking!). There is the teacher who loves giving (and getting) hugs. Kids return home from college just to swing by and get one. There is an art teacher so committed to what she does that even the parents in other communities know her name. The school nurse who knows your children almost as well as you do and can easily diagnose the difference between a cold and the Monday blues. The reading specialist that connects with your child’s passions and then engages them on multiple levels. A teacher with an imaginary refrigerator door in the classroom so that her students can share the details of their lives without anyone feeling excluded. The fifth grade teachers who try to prepare the kids for the jump to the middle school without robbing them of their last year in elementary school. And how could I overlook the long-tenured gym teacher who is always smiling and the principal who knows everyone’s name.
I guess the reason that the past decade of elementary school was so successful is that it reminded me of what school was like when I was a child. However, next year our kids will be on a bus and out the door before 7:30 a.m. I know that I’ll still take my dog for a walk and see all the youngsters headed off to school. Not having a child in elementary school anymore seems to promote you to the next phase of being a parent, an older parent.
Inevitably it will be me standing in my front yard looking at the walkway to the elementary school with my eyes misting up.