Seven Blocks Of Freedom: Walking To School

City Games, Part 2

“Do you have your lunch?”

“Yes.”

“Watch out for your brother.”

“I will.”

“Call me at work when you guys get home.”

“O.K.”

James and I say goodbye to our mother and race out the back door. In the movie of our childhood (still to be made), the bridge from Aretha Franklin’s “Think” fills the autumn air: “Freedom, freedom, freedom, FREEDOM!”

We love walking to school. No parents, no teachers – just seven authority-free city blocks between home and Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School.

Is my best friend Chris coming up the street to meet us? (Yes.) Will the sometimes-untethered German shepherd down on Moorland Avenue – we call him Killer – attack us? (Not this morning, thankfully.) Is my grandfather’s car in his driveway as we walk by? (Yes, as always.) Do we have pennies for the bubble gum machine at Haskins Pharmacy? (James does.) Will Mr. Siravo’s one-eyed dog, Charlie, successfully navigate the tricky intersection of Smith Street and River Avenue? (Yup, always does.) Will we? (Yes.)

One block from school, we stop at the playground for a game of kamikaze on the swings. We swoop and soar until we can go no higher and then tug on one chain to dive-bomb each other. Last one sitting wins.

Riiinnngg! The first bell. We run from the playground to the school yard. There’s still time for a couple of races. Down to the chain link fence and back – go!

Riiinnngg! The final bell. Teachers appear, lines form, shoulders slump. Chris and James fall in with their classmates, I with mine. In the movie of our childhood (still to be made), some kids hear strains from Chopin’s “Funeral March”. For others, including me, it’s the Looney Tunes jingle: “That’s all, folks!”

When I get to Miss MacDonald’s classroom, I see the day’s schedule written on the blackboard. One word stands out like a gold star on a homework sheet: Recess.

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