We've seen the goslings again ....
Last night, Joyce and I drove over to Aurora for a cup of coffee. We often do this in the evening--drive through the Tinker's Creek park on Old Mill Road, looking for wildlife, enjoying the novelty of a drive of several miles without, usually, seeing another car.
We turned onto Aurora-Hudson (east), then South Bissell to Rte. 82. On South Bissell last night we saw the new goslings there near West Pioneer Trail. And I remembered ...
When our son was in sixth grade (the fall of 1983), we were not happy with the local school. For three periods a day he had a teacher who seemed to have lost interest. At open house, we were alarmed to see that her walls were bare, as if she were thinking--hoping?--that if she just removed everything, then, maybe, maybe, she would ... disappear. Or--even better--the kids would. For science class, she sat at her desk ("directed study," she called it that night) while the kids read a chapter in the book, did the questions at the end, turned them in. Her language arts class was just as bad: dreary worksheets, dreary stories in dreary readers, dreary days. No writing at all.
Steve was hating school, crying in the mornings. It was breaking our hearts.
We went to see the principal--something I had never done in Steve's life. We tried to be nice. We said, "Look, everyone has a dull teacher now and then--everywhere. Here and Harvard. But three periods a day. Isn't there a way he could take one or two of those classes from another teacher?"
No. "Once we start making changes," he said, "every parent in town will be in here." I was a teacher; I understood that. But hated it.
(And he did. But that's another story.)
For nearly three school years, he rode with me to Harmon in the mornings, and Joyce would pick him up afterwards unless he was at play practice or something and I could be the chauffeur.
(It was odd, having my own son in class a couple of years later. But that's another story.)
Those were my three favorite years on earth. Although we had always been close, we talked, all the way to school (some eight miles) about all sorts of things, noticed sites and sights along the way, laughed. It was tough for him at first, a new school. I remember the guilt and pain I felt his first day at lunch. I peeked out in the cafeteria, where he sat at a table--alone. Seven empty chairs his only company.
But--bless those Harmon kids, that AHS graduating class of 1990--his solitude lasted only one day. One day. Soon, he was with other kids, kids who treated him kindly, who knew, maybe, how hard it was for him: a new school, a teacher's kid. And soon he was swapping lunch items and stories, laughing along and discovering who he was.
One day in May 1984, Steve and I saw the goslings there by the Western Reserve Racquet Club. He saw them first--pointed, cried out. We watched for them every day that spring, saw them grow from little fuzzballs to gawky middle-school geese, to Canada geese indistinguishable in our ignorant eyes from their parents.
The next spring--we started looking in April ... When would we first see them? Who would first see them? And then came that day in May (April?) when one of us did ... I really can't remember who saw them first ... it doesn't matter. And, again, we watched, marveled.
The spring of his eighth grade year ... again we looked. This was an especially difficult time for me, that May. I had loved having him in class. (But that's another story.) And knew that in only a few weeks he would move on to high school. And that things would never be the same.
He would never again be that little boy crying out: Look, Dad! The goslings! And I would never again be that father who shared in that unaffected joy.
I still look for the birds every spring. I still remember. Sometimes--like this year--I'll text Steve the moment of my first sighting. On April 30 this year, I texted: Gosling sighting today! A half-hour later came his reply: Awesome.