If you’ve ever been a teacher or known a teacher, you’re aware that it’s not easy to take a day off. Â Calling in sick means writing lesson plans and detailed instructions for a substitute who is not familiar with either your classes or your students. Â 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. Â Not for illness, happily; Â 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. Â I never made it when Matthew was a student there; last year, Â Scott was the one who went with Luke. Â But next year, Luke will be in kindergarten. Â 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. Â This feeling was enhanced by the drive over the hill and into Half Moon Bay, home of pumpkin patches and pumpkin festivals galore. Â Honestly, the coast is not that far from my house, but somehow we never seem to get there. Â 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. Â The very air smells different. Â 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 Â houses and rocking horses and all the other attractions at the farm. Â Luke and his buddies were in their element, riding ponies and eating popcorn. Â 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. Â I am a mom and a teacher, and sometimes I feel as though I’m not doing either one particularly well. Â Being able to take a morning off from one-half of my identity, Â 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. Â I loved the scent of eucalyptus and fog. Â I loved the faint autumn snap in the morning air. Â 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. Â It’s a time for storing things away for the winter, so that you have something to sustain you on those cold bleak days. Â 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. Â 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.