I suppose one could argue that it’s all about the light.
I have no proof. No photographic evidence of the size of the windows at Washington Elementary. But for the gymnasium, every classroom, in my memory, had giant windows. Mrs. Paulson’s 4th grade class overlooked the swings of the playground. The entire back wall of the classroom seemed to be lit up with freedom.
We were just beginning to get duties. Hall, lavatory, and drinking fountain monitors. Those who got to lead the pack to the library. Crosswalk guards. And for most, the highly coveted position of running the movie projector. Don’t get me wrong, I loved movie days, but not for the reason you might think. Sure, the break from the ordinary chalk board lesson was nice. But there was only one duty I wanted. And surprisingly, no one ever challenged me for it. There was no need to squeal, “Oooooh, ooooh, pick me…” under my breath. I was the only one raising my hand when it came to volunteering for shade monitor — the one who got to pull the giant shades before showing the movie. But here’s the most extraordinary part — the one who got to tug those giant sun blocking shades open after the movie, raise them into the sky of the room, hear the flap, flap, flap as they rested at the top, and be first to feel that glorious light streaming in. The glorious flight of swings. Feet racing. Arms swinging. Bodies dangling. Complete freedom. To be the lightkeeper, what an enormous and joyful responsibility. I wanted to be the one to give that to everyone.
I wasn’t wealthy. I couldn’t buy my friends extravagant gifts. Couldn’t invite them to a palatial home. But I could give them this. The light. In my youthful, humble, hopeful mind, the best gift of all.
Maybe that’s what I’m still trying to do. In my writing. My painting. Just for a brief shining moment, be the one who gets to fling open the dark shades, and let you into the light. “OOOOOh, ooooooh! Here it comes! Can you feel it?”
Nighttime makes it final flaps. The light shines through. Good morning!