If you’ve ever been a teacher or known a teacher, you’re aware that it’s not easy to take a day off. Calling in sick means writing lesson plans and detailed instructions for a substitute who is not familiar with either your classes or your students. Most of the time, it’s far easier just to grab the Kleenex and pop the Day-quil and teach the darn lessons yourself.
But last week, I bit the bullet and took a day off. Not for illness, happily; instead, I used a personal day to help chaperone Luke’s preschool fieldtrip to the pumpkin patch.
The preschool does this fieldtrip every October, but it was my first time going. I never made it when Matthew was a student there; last year, Scott was the one who went with Luke. But next year, Luke will be in kindergarten. I realized that this year was my last chance to go … and that was motivation enough to go to the hassle of writing out plans for a sub.
I have to say, it always feels slightly daring not to be at school on a school day. This feeling was enhanced by the drive over the hill and into Half Moon Bay, home of pumpkin patches and pumpkin festivals galore. Honestly, the coast is not that far from my house, but somehow we never seem to get there. So to drive over the hill in the early morning light, following the winding highway up and then down, felt like a bona fide adventure.
It seems like another world there: a world of eucalyptus groves and cypress, of fog and farms. The very air smells different. It was about ten degrees colder, too; I pulled my vest around me and was glad I’d brought it.
But then the sun came out, touching the pumpkins and trains and bouncy houses and rocking horses and all the other attractions at the farm. Luke and his buddies were in their element, riding ponies and eating popcorn. I kept thinking about how fun it was to be there with him, to be fully in Mom-mode for a morning.
My life feels so bifurcated sometimes; a few inches away from me, it splits in two. I am a mom and a teacher, and sometimes I feel as though I’m not doing either one particularly well. Being able to take a morning off from one-half of my identity, to escape over the hill and into a world where it was just me and my youngest boy and a whole lot of fun, felt at once energizing and peaceful.
And I loved every minute. I loved the scent of eucalyptus and fog. I loved the faint autumn snap in the morning air. I loved the thought of being there as Luke’s memory bank was quietly filled with enchanted images of childhood: fat pumpkins in a pile, scarecrows with straggly raffia hands, painted ghosts with smiling faces, a primary-colored train to tote you up the hill and back again in a gentle unhurried loop.
I’m not a farmer, but even a suburbanite like me knows that autumn is the time for gathering in. It’s a time for storing things away for the winter, so that you have something to sustain you on those cold bleak days. And as my littlest boy stands on the cusp of this transitional space between preschool and elementary school, there is so much I want to gather. I want to gather the experiences that I won’t be able to have in a few months’ time and squirrel them away in my memory, recognizing them for the gifts that they are.