Today I ride for the third week in a row with my son as driver of the carpool. The last two weeks it was just me and my kids. This week the group is larger, including three teens from Somerville, Arlington, and Cambridge, all known to me from one context or another. I wish we would talk, but we don’t, at least not much. My son drives and we talk about driving, each of us relaxing the longer we’re on the road. Partway there he is competent enough for my mind to wander. I think and begin to enjoy the time for my mind to be in it’s own places. Then my daughter asks how much longer, my son asks if his driving makes her sick, she says no, he asks again, I laugh, thinking how much better for his driving to make her sick, than his sense of humor or his something else. She says, no, she’s just bored, at which point she and I discuss new boots for winter, which cheers her up a bit.

When we get to school, the teens say good-bye, the politest of the bunch helps me with the van gate, I ask him to thank his mother again for the afternoon ride, my daughter and I haul her gear into school, where she labels her ripstick with a sharpie borrowed from the art room, a little girl, younger sister to her friends, asks for her help, Isabel lifts the little girl in her leotard up onto the shelves in the kitchen where she and her friend eat their “lunch” at 9:35, and my girl unloads hers into the fridge, puts her art supplies into her new cubby, while upstairs someone is playing the piano so beautifully that the sound coming out the windows when we come onto the porch makes me nearly cry, causes my girl to comment upon it’s loveliness, and when after going to the art room to see my girl’s works in progress, after seeing my son sitting and talking and smiling with his friends, our last year’s carpool guy messing around and talking with his, we walk to the parking lot to say good-bye, there is a girl with beautiful blue hair walking from their car to the school with her dad in his blue suit, and another family so large they drive a fifteen passenger van arriving with bare feet and enormous lunch boxes and passengers to boot, I am overcome with the importance of catching children, of making space for the blue haired kids, the ones who wear wool trench coats and orange stocking caps while others travel in bare feet, the ones who want to draw and paint and play piano every day, the ones who need years to learn to make a conversation casually with friends, the ones who feel on the fringes in some way, the girl with a suitcase on wheels who makes me wonder where she’s going after school or what she’s doing at school today that requires so much stuff, and I am extra sad for Eduardo not to be with us today, to have missed another opportunity for home.

As I leave the parking lot, I wonder on our Charter School and on our ability to catch kids, urban kids, english language learners, kids whose parents may not be literate in english, or literate at all, kids who don’t have much financially, who have things culturally we may not yet understand. I wonder on my place, when at times Sudbury seems a haven that may need fighting for to preserve, when most of the kids  there are white, not wealthy, but with the means to pay, and I wonder on my own little, tiny world of children of my own, who have needed their own forms of catching, and on my status as a single mom of somewhat limited means myself, and I wonder on the day care where when we know families well, we always find some who need catching, and I wonder on content and on the relevance of school, and on all the myriad things in the world we are each and all interested in pursuing, and on the time and wherewithal and FREEDOM to do it, and I wonder on the future and what it brings.

All this in carpool, in my two hours of having my mind detached from any firm grounding in reality.  I think about this duty and privilege of driving carpool, and on becoming unmoored in any way, on putting oneself out of bounds for a moment, of waiting for what comes, and I think of my friend Macky and her telling me yesterday about her understanding of children in transition, of how she used to worry about their being at loose ends, and how recently she has begun to see it as the children’s time to stop one thing and to look around for what next, to organize themselves for a change, and I think of Macky and her son, who is nearly my age, and of her husband, not old enough to be Macky’s son father, but playing that role, and of my friendship with Macky, her sixty one years to my forty five, and of my co-teacher Alice and her sixty seven years to my forty five, and the whole mixed age thing comes clear again, how we offer what we offer to those with whom we connect, for many, many reasons, sometimes because of age, but over our lifetimes, much more out of synchronicity, out of mutual interest or affection, out of circumstance or cooperativity, and I am grateful again, so very grateful for my kids’ school and for my day care life and for the life I lead, which is changing all the time, sometimes too quickly, sometimes not enough for my taste and for the transitions, whether carpool or divorce, which give my mind time to wander, to look around, reorganize, get on a new and different track or back on the old, we never knows until we’re there.

Now on to Charter School Work, goal of the day if I weren’t to wander, which I have..cha cha.

And here is the lovely poem from today’s Writers’ Almanac, which perhaps was a piece of this piece, too:

Living Things

by Anne Porter

Our poems
Are like the wart-hogs
In the zoo
It’s hard to say
Why there should be such creatures

But once our life gets into them
As sometimes happens
Our poems
Turn into living things
And there’s no arguing
With living things
They are
The way they are

Our poems
May be rough
Or delicate
Or great

But always
They have inside them
A confluence of cries
And secret languages

And always
They are improvident
And free
They keep
A kind of Sabbath

“Living Things” by Anne Porter, from An Altogether Different Language. © Zoland Books, 1994. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)