Don’t run in the halls

Fern and Angelo started track this week. It’s still too cold to run outside and the gymnasium wasn’t available so the coaches had the kids run in the hallways of West Middle School for practice.

When I was in school, running in the hallways was strictly forbidden. Even walking quickly was viewed as suspicious activity. We were expected to walk from classroom to classroom in a calm, Catholic way. We had six minutes to complete this task.

There was a “sweet spot” a few seconds before the bell would ring and the next period could begin. Just before it rang, the entire school would settle into a lovely hush. I savored that moment of quiet. But every once in a while, as the school settled into that stillness, I would hear some pathetic loser running down the hallway.

These were not the skillful strides of a trained athlete. They were the manic, desperate steps of someone who believed that running in the halls was a sin and that the only thing worse than running in the halls was being late.

Inevitably, the bell would ring, and I would hear their footsteps stop. The poor, hellbound sap would turn around and walk with utter defeat to the main office where they had to get a permission slip to go into class. Their frustration was palpable.

I’d wonder who it was. I’d wonder how much trouble they were in. I’d feel sorry for them. I’d wonder what their punishment would be. I’d wonder–

“Let this be an example,” a teacher would say, interrupting my thoughts. Of course I can’t remember exactly what my teachers said, but they all reacted the same way. They’d gesture in the direction of the footsteps and say, “Don’t be late and don’t run in the halls.”

Sometimes the teacher would show remarkable compassion for the tardy student.

“I’m just relieved they didn’t get hurt. Or worse: hurt someone else! Because running in the halls is dangerous!”

The teacher would then shake off their disgust and offer pragmatic wisdom.

“If you’re going to be late, don’t run. Just walk calmly to the main office and get your demerits.”

I never ran in the hallways but one day I wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed in the bathroom during a class until I felt better. I was nervous, but I did as instructed: I walked to the main office to get my tardy slip. As I walked, I wondered if I’d have to see the dean and what kind of detention I would get. I wondered how I was going to tell my parents. I wondered if I hurt the teacher’s feelings by not being in their class. I wondered–

“What’s the matter?” the secretary asked, interrupting my thoughts.

“Hi, I wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed in the bathroom for a few minutes after lunch?”

“What class are you missing?” she asked.

“Study hall,” I told her.

“They won’t even notice. Just have a seat and wait to go to your next class.”

I couldn’t believe it was that simple. No tardy slip, no detention and I never had to tell my parents. Had I run in the halls, I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Thanks for reading my blog. Gotta run! -Connie

I got pants!

Jack was here.

The sun is shining today but it’s “frost on the window” cold and there is a treacherous layer of ice coating Rockford’s sidewalks and alleys. I know this for a fact because my son Angelo slipped on it this morning on his way to the bus stop. He scraped his knee so when he arrived at school, he went to the nurse’s office. After she patched him up, she sent him on his way and gave me a call.

“It’s a mild abrasion,” she said, “but it tore through his pants.”

West Middle School has a strict dress code. The kids must wear clean khaki pants that are free of any tears or holes, so…

“Do you have any pants?”

“I got pants!”

Who talks that way? Who says, “I got pants!”

I do, apparently.

“I’ll be right there, Nurse!”

Who actually calls a nurse “Nurse?”

Was it necessary for me to take a photo of myself carrying pants to West Middle School?

I sprang to action and sped to the school. After Security checked me in, I went to the nurse’s office brandishing not one but two pairs of fresh khaki pants. I knocked gently on the door and let myself in. The nurse asked me if I was Angelo’s mom.

“Yes I am and I got pants!”

Why couldn’t I stop talking like an idiot?

The nurse took the pants from me and said, “I’ll call him down.”

I was confused. Why did she take the pants from me? I had planned to give Angelo the pants. The nurse looked at me and said, “You can leave…or would you like to see him?”

“Yes, please. May I?”

I just needed to see my son. I knew it was just a skinned knee, but I needed to spend a little time with him and the nurse seemed to immediately understand this and handed the pants back to me.

“It’ll be a couple minutes,” the nurse said. “He’s coming from the second floor.”

“Thank you.”

It was my first time in a nurse’s office and I must say I really liked it. It was a well lit, clean and comforting space. There was a blue cot in the open for anyone who needed to lie down. There was a large bathroom and a separate area that looked like a lab / kitchen combination. While I poked around, a girl came in holding her hand over her eye.

“I got some hand sanitizer in my eye and they told me to come down here.”

The nurse gave her some saline solution and told her to stand over the sink and flush out her eye.

“It won’t even sting.”

The girl said thanks and took care of herself. While she was doing that, Angelo came in.

“Hi Mom.”

“Hi! I got your pants!”

Yep. Still hyper about pants.

The nurse motioned to the bathroom.

“If you want to take a look at his knee, you can go in there for some privacy.”

Once inside, he showed me his expertly-bandaged knee and said, “It doesn’t hurt anymore.” I said it might later and that I was sorry it happened.

“It’s fine, Mom.”

He changed into his new pants. As we were leaving, we thanked Nurse Leah who was helping a third kid navigate a COVID test. He was circling his nostril with a long Q-Tip when we said, “Good luck” and left.

“Bye!” they both called out in unison.

Angie and I walked down the long hall together. West is a busy school. There are nearly 1,000 middle-schoolers enrolled and though it gets loud sometimes, it always feels peaceful and inviting. It has a great vibe.

“I like your school,” I told him.

“So do I.”

By then, he was at the stairwell and we said our goodbyes. I left feeling thankful for our unique and quiet moment together.

I also left feeling thankful for the school nurse. I was in there for less than ten minutes and she had already taken care of three kids plus she let me stay longer than necessary. How many children (and nervous parents) pass through her door in a day? So many lives touched and improved.

Wherever you are traveling today, please be mindful of that sneaky ice. If you live in a warmer environment, please be mindful of sneaky debris. But if you do fall and rip your pants, I might know a gal who will be absurdly happy to bring you a new pair.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it so much. Be safe! -Connie