Thursday, November 17, 2016

Throwing Our List To The Wind

Over the past few weeks we've been reading Frog and Toad stories at the end of each day. Last week we read one called "The List," in which Toad has written a "To Do" list for his day -- Get out of bed, Get dressed, Eat breakfast, and so on. He takes great pleasure in marking off his items as he accomplishes them until the wind blows his list away. When Frog suggests they chase the list, Toad can't because, "Chasing my list not on my list of things to do today." As I read the story, parents were arriving to pick up their kids, so as I came to the end the room, as it always is at the end of the day, was full of adults. More for their benefit than for the kids I said at the close of the story, "And the lesson here is that making lists is a sucker's game. If it's not important enough to remember, it's probably not important enough to bother doing."

On Monday, the class went on its annual field trip to the local fire station. I've been visiting Station #9 twice a year with the kids since we moved to Fremont. It's always a popular excursion, but this year it was extraordinary. The Seattle Fire Department is committed to its community outreach, especially to children, so they've always been a friendly bunch, but this time they pulled out all the stops.

We were warned, as always, that the firefighters were working and that it was possible that they would be called away to a fire at any moment. They sounded the alarm for us (which sounded more like a doorbell) so that we would know what it sounded like and were told where to stand so we wouldn't be in the way or get hurt. Then we got down to the business of clambering on the truck, sitting behind the steering wheel, and checking out the equipment.

Then the alarm sounded. As we adults hustled the kids to the curb, counting heads as we went, a few of the children cried. We positioned ourselves with the intent of waving to the firefighters as they drove off, calmed our fears, and then the alarm stopped. It was a false alarm, an exciting exclamation point right there in the middle of our visit. We poured back into the station where we got to watch one of the firefighters don his full suit, right down to the mask over his face. This is probably the most important part of these visits as far as I'm concerned. Children often hide from firefighters during an emergency, frightened by how they look when fully protected. In fact, one of the kids on this field trip did exactly that in his own home last year. The firefighter knelt and the children were invited to touch him, then to try and knock him over, which they succeeded in doing by working together.

And then, holy cow, we were asked, "Do you want to shoot the fire hose?"

Oh boy, did we! This is only the second time in nearly two decades of fire house field trips that we been permitted to do that. We hooked up to a nearby fire hydrant, then took turns firing the hose at a traffic cone set up as a target. I've never seen children queue up so gladly.

The original "list" for our day was to then head back to school, but it was a nice day and we were so fired up about the fire station that we decided to instead visit the playground adjacent to the BF Day Elementary School where many of the kids will be attending next year. There we met my old friend Henry, a second grader now. As he lead one group of kids in a rowdy chasing/wrestling game, the kind only a bigger kid can manage, the rest of us spun on the merry-go-round, ate snack, and enjoyed the climber. We spotted a kite stuck high in a tree and a group of us tried to find things to throw at it to knock it down.

After awhile, we decided to head back to school, but along our way we found that the Powerhouse was open, the headquarters of the Fremont Arts Council, and home to our community's identifying cultural event -- the Summer Solstice Parade. Once more throwing our list to the wind, we went inside where we found a couple of artists at work, one creating beautiful batik protest banners bearing the words "Water is Life" to be used for various anti-Dakota Access Pipeline protests, which she showed to us, briefly explaining why she thought it is important. A second artist, my friend Maque, the man who made the giant windmill sculpture that sits in the bullseye of our playground, gave us a tour of the colorful parade artwork that is stored along the walls and in the rafters of the building -- giant elephants and dogs, paper mache masks and feathered head dresses, massive lanterns and puppets -- then brought out a small model of our local, beloved Troll sculpture on wheels that the children took turns pulling around the concrete floor.

When we finally arrived back at school, we had just enough time to sit together to read another Frog and Toad story, the end to our exciting, relevant, spot-on adventure we had only because we threw our list to the wind.

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