Monday, November 24, 2003

Blessings and balderdash

Today was one of those days where you know you should stop and count your blessings, but you're too busy grumbling over all your petty little annoyances. My son's school is on one of our town's main streets, right across from a funeral parlor. This isn't usually a problem, but on a day like today -- when a local police officer killed in the line of duty was being laid to rest -- it becomes a logistical nightmare. Our first hint of trouble came last night, when the school activated its snow-day phone chain to warn parents to get their kids to school early, because the street would be closed at 8:45, right when school starts (and rush-rush parents like me come ripping up the street with their tardy offspring). My son and I drove up at 8:35 -- heroically early for us two sleepyheads -- and the street was already closed, with angry officers motioning us to keep it moving, keep it moving, keep it moving. I'd made a big point of telling my son that it's important to honor police officers, who put their lives on the line every day to protect our community, even if it means we have to change our routine a little to accommodate it, but -- MAN! Did they have to close the *&!%#@ street so early! Don't they know kids have school! How can they just inconvenience everybody like this! Mumble mumble grumble.

I finally found a parking place on a sidestreet and walked my guy to his building along with all the other mumbling, grumbling parents who'd thought they were promised another 10 minutes of right of way. We had it better than the driver and aide of the special-ed schoolbus that couldn't get through either, and had to herd their load of kiddos a lot farther than the usual up-the-steps-and-through-the-door. Didn't stop us from grumbling, though, especially when the crossing guard mentioned that there was a major accident on a nearby highway, and we noticed all the helicopters hovering and disaster-bound emergency vehicles adding their sirens to the funeral-bound ones.

It soon became apparent that getting into the neighborhood around my son's school, blocked streets and all, was going to be a lot easier than getting out. I work just up the street from the school, but of course that street was closed. And all the streets surrounding it led to streets that were clogged with funeral traffic or clogged with traffic avoiding the highway accident. Quiet residential streets were suddenly on full gridlock alert. One escape route after the other led to long lines of stopped cars. My less-than-five-minute ride to the office turned into 45 minutes of traffic jams. Plenty of time to grumble about the traffic and the lack of planning and the likelihood that my son would be unable to concentrate with several hundred flashing-lighted vehicles outside the window of his classroom. I did try to keep things in perspective: While waiting for the cars ahead of me to poke along, I took out a little rosary I keep in my purse and tried to say prayers for the soul and the family of the police officer and for anybody hurt in the accident, and to thank God that my own family was, after all, safe and healthy and intact. But then some side-street speedster would cut in front of me, and I'd get to grumbling again.

I wondered all day, with much righteous indignation, whether my son had managed to hold himself together with so much powerful distraction in his immediate environment, but his school behavior chart came home with its usual satisfactory mark just like any normal uneventful day. He told me how his class and a few others had stood on the front steps of the school to watch as the procession of official vehicles left the funeral home and headed toward a church across town. He told me that he had counted 303 motorcycles. And he showed me the way he and his classmates had held their hands over their hearts in honor of the fallen officer.

Maybe he's got this perspective thing down a little better than I do.

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