April 16, 2000

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


Sadly, this is the time of the year we all wish would just go away. Many of the lakes are still not open. They sit there covered in ice that canít even support a dog, yet still too thick to run a boat over. The woods are a brown patchwork of puddles, snow and mud. Unless you want to be glorified in mud the woods are plain unappealing. This is our Hades, our downtime. It is a very useless time of year and it is very easy to let it get you down.

For many merchants it is a time of single digit profits and a customer count that you can do on one hand. Many merchants are very lonely. They miss the banter and patter of little feet going through their stores. Mostly they miss the ring of the register that keeps them from the poor house.

Resort owners hate this time of year. With the woods a shambles and Mother Nature in denial, it is hard to market the beauty of a lifeless Spring. The only drama is that of Winter and Spring fighting back and forth with snowstorms and dark rainy days. This gyrating back and forth is mostly an irritating nuisance for us trying to go about our work. About all a resort owner can do is worry about mortgage payments and their Visa credit level.

I feel lucky in that I know where one can go to experience the energy of pure Spring. A place where the sun is always out and rampant energy is always in high gear. Yes, I am talking about the lunchroom at school. That is where it is still morning in America.

You canít beat the energy level of a third grader and when you fill a table with 30 of them, complete with food to play with, it is a sure-fire recipe for excitement. I am fortunate to be able to eat with the K-3 crowd during my lunch break. At noon sharp I go down and weasel through the multiply lines of Kindergartners and make for the head of the line. That is just one of the perks of being twice as tall as they are. I get to go through the line and pick a spot where I can sit. Most of the time I sit with either the second or third graders.

They love having adult company. I use to go to lunch early and sit with the senior high kids, but that wasnít much fun. They are at such an awkward age they just donít know what to say to an adult. They much rather chat about who has a crush on who and talk about the opposite sex. Plus, my kidlets are all there and they are at the age where they would rather not acknowledge that they have parents. Third graders are luckily hormone free and therefore much more capable with talking to an adult.

As a regular, I am sought after as a lunchmate. The kids enjoy my antics. I donít do too much or I will end up being sent to the bad boy table. The lunch monitors are always roaming around the lunchroom maintaining a strict level of controlled pandemonium. If it gets too loud they start counting aloud. That is everyoneís que to raise their hand and stop talking. If the count gets much beyond 6 we have been too noisy. This is a ritual that happens about twice a day. It is a good way to change the conversation and get kids to finally eat.

Watching kids eat makes you wonder how they ever get enough food. Some seem to think that just by being next to food they will absorb nutriments. Most dig in and eat all the good stuff. Mrs. Bertylson, our dietitian, is doing a nice job catering to this most perspicacious crowd of eaters. Usually, it is only bread crust and mixed vegetables that end up filling the Dumpster. The lunchroom monitors know only too well that the battle for kidís eating vegetables is a lost cause, indeed.

My one antic is too try and steal chocolate milk from the kids sitting near me. I still use a cane to get around and I have found it an excellent tool in snaring a carton of chocolate milk. Like the Trickís Rabbit, I fail at not being noticed. So far this year I have not succeeded in fooling even a Kindergartner out of their chocolate milk. By now, every kid knows the first thing you do is open up your carton so Mr. Sorensen canít steal it. My usual excuse is that the wind must have blown their chocolate milk over on my tray. They love it.

If you are a Washington Elementary parent, you are lucky, indeed. That is because you can come and eat with your child any time you want to. There is always plenty of good food to go around. Just show up and join your child. You will be guaranteed the biggest smile from them and given a chance to soak up some of the youthful energy that keeps these kids ever so engaged in their busy world. Some wise person said once that, ďChristmas is for childrenĒ and from what I have seen in the lunchroom, so is lunch.

Are you going to drink that chocolate milk?


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