In the Style of Joseph Mitchell: a Playground Reflection

 

             Every now and then, in pursuit of an escape from my everyday life, I go to the small school I used to attend, and reminisce about when I used to play in its yard as a child. The playground near my house has changed since then – the black swings have been painted white, the white sand has been replaced entirely with a soft plaster-like surface, the silver sprinkler has been moved back, and the bronze ladder has been elongated. The yard area outside the school, however, is exactly the same as when I last left it. The monkey bars remain yellow, the wall-ball wall remains in place, the ground remains asphalt, and the metal gate remains the length of the yard.

             Occasionally, walking by, I see the principal of the school. Has she changed like my childhood playground, or has she remained a similar person like the school playground? Sadly, I don’t know her story after I left the school, nor do I know her story before it. However, I did know her well while I was there. “I love teaching,” she would always say. Becoming a teacher was “was the best decision [she’d] ever made.” The smiles of children, the satisfaction of knowing one has made an impact, the ability to lead other teachers in this endeavor, and the ability not only to teach, but also to be a friend and confidant of children were some of the most compelling reasons. For a person this interesting, her attire was anything but. Every day she would wear one of two black outfits, except for formal occasions, when white or a black could be her choice of color. Every day she came to school in a black suit, and every day she would return home in that same black suit. However uninteresting her attire, she wore it well. As she walked down the hallway, she exuded great confidence, which seemed to imply sternness, but her facial expression also gave a projection of friendliness. Constantly wearing a happy visage, she was, above anything else, approachable. Her happy visage seems to have faded somewhat, based on the two times I have seen her since. Maybe she is less happy in the summer, when kids are not around. Or maybe she is worn out from her job. Or maybe my perception as a child was a little bit off.

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