And So, To School

Al charged in, his usual happy investigative self this morning.

Within a short while he had surpassed himself by furtively setting up an experiment entitled: ‘What would happen if I broke an egg on the coffee table: and furthermore, how would Felix’s computer disc respond to the application of albumen?

We wiped the egg up, and cleaned the disc, and the house found equilibrium once more.

Al brought me a pair of headphones. “I’ll put them on, you listen,” he directed. He put them on. I stuck the jack in my ear. “What am I thinking, Al?” I asked.

These aunts and their infernal questions: he confiscated the jack and disappeared in hot pursuit of I know not what.

A few minutes later, he pottered in with a large plastic robin, about the size of a small football. Over one eye it had a big hole. It was a broken robin.

But it was Al’s mission to make it better. He had found a small toy traffic cone which, if you put the pointy end Β in first, caught, and plugged the gap quite well. “Look, Auntie Kate! I’ve made Robin better!” he declared with considerable satisfaction.

He put the earphones on the robin and bustled about like a real veterinarian until it was time to go to school.

For the last time.

For the final fortnight of his time at nursery school, his mother will have finished working. There is no need, any more, for Auntie Kate.

And in September, Alasdair Shrewsday goes to Big School.

He had a trial run on Tuesday afternoon. All the parents brought their children to the door, and left them in a long line ready for their first session in Reception Class.

In line, he did the Falling Down For No Reason At All trick which goes down a storm with the children at playgroup. It met with silence. It was going to be a difficult crowd, Al decided.

When another little girl was asked if Mummy wanted to come through because she felt nervous, Al bellowed good naturedly: “I’m not nervous!”

His pre-visit has transformed his take on school. It is usually a trial to prize Al out of his office at the far end of my Mercedes estate to accompany the children to the playground. He is comfortable. He does not want to move his affairs at such short notice after the business day has begun.

Today, he was hammering to be let out, his knapsack already strapped to his back, and off at a pace down the path to school, his sisters and Felix running to catch up.

He rounded the playground and found the other pre-Receptioners. St Saviour’s is a school of around 240, ages 4-11, and each class has a morning line. The children walk across, put their bag on a line which represents their class’s queue, and run off to play.

Al and the tiniest kids played at Playing In The Big School Playground.

And then Β finally,in a move which made my eyes water and my nose run ignominiously, he solemnly took his rucsack, and found a Line which had been painted on the playground. He put his knapsack firmly on this self-appointed line. Al was here to stay.

It sat there: an aspiration waiting to be fulfilled. The perfect, positive beginning to a journey in education.

But it is a Rubicon. A line which, once crossed, will change things for all of us.

Al is leaving this time behind, as once Christopher Robin left the Hundred Acre Wood.

But a new story, I sense, is about to begin.

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48 thoughts on “And So, To School

  1. What’s the “auntie” version of empty nest syndrome? How fortunate that you caught the bold, decisive act of one determined, not-at-all nervous lad. May he thrive in his new world.

  2. and Christopher was off on another journey – Pooh bear sighed! Lovely post Kate – words to describe the rubicon (without the words and photos the moment almost disappears).

  3. Oh my, Kate, this brought a few sudden tears and a heart tugging, surprising me, but why not? I feel as if I’m vested in Big Al and here he is, about to set out on a new adventure. One that he seems quite ready for, even if Auntie Kate, and Miss Penny, is not. Sigh.

    1. I know. It happens all too soon, Penny, does it not? Such precious years while they are young. And you have been with us for a fair measure of his toddler years πŸ™‚ But there is Kezzie, smiling out of your latest post, just beginning the journey which Al has completed. I can’t wait to hear how she grows up.

  4. Of course, I am sobbing. I take Cayleigh for ice cream today for the last time until October. How time marches us to the precipice. As much as Al will thrive at school, his Auntie Kate will miss him. And so will we.

    1. You’ll start me off again, Andra πŸ™‚ As a small consolation I should add that I am embarking on a programme of cultural visits for my nephew and his sisters and cousins. First stop, Hampton Court. Get ready, the ghost of Henry VIII, you don’t know what’s about to hit you!

  5. We shall just have to sit and watch from the sidelines a little more, Penny; though I have a feeling Al has many more surprises for us in the future. The story has only just begun πŸ™‚

  6. Me thinks, Al is deluged in ‘shiny moment(s). Just ‘puff’ and be glad your there to bear witness. Noticed him peering into Starbucks cup, looking for evil forces I suspect.

      1. Does it matter, it’s probably impossible. Just embrace , praise him for being Al.

  7. Big Al is moving on, things will never be the same. But Big Al in Big School calls for another round of adventure stories, no? One thing is sure, that boy will never fade into the woodwork… πŸ˜€

  8. Dear Kate, Al is so dear and you share him with us with such tenderness that it brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. Yes, crossing the Rubicon and I hope that on the other side is a joyous journey into the wonder of learning and discovery. But it seems to me that basically, what education needs to do is to help children keep the sense of wonder that they bring to the classroom. The sense that life has a magical quality to it and that it moment by moment presents us with gifts of rock and water, question and answer, heft and breadth. It’s that wonderful quote by one of your English poets: “To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower. To hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.” Peace.

    1. Wonderful old Blake. Some thought him unhinged: all of us who are lucky enough to hold on to that wonder are thought eccentric. Yet as you say: it is the greatest gift anyone can bequeath, because learning is a lifelong journey, spearheaded by ourselves and enabled by others. The wonders never cease.

  9. A time of mixed emotions (but not for Al :)) – looking forward to tales of his adventures at Big School, Kate. I just love that first photo on this post – its speaks of such energy, curiosity and zest for life. I suspect, being a member of a family such as yours, he will never lose it.

  10. Now this one brought back some teary-eyed memories for me.. I wish you luck as you transition to this “new place”.. I can tell you.. it just keeps getting better πŸ™‚

  11. How wonderful that Al has had this time with you Auntie. The teary moments don’t cease. My eldest received his driving permit this last week and that was another right of passage.

  12. If you’d had the headphones on and the jack plugged in to your computer, hence, via the Series of Tubes to mine, you would have heard me say “WHAT?!!??” at the line about no need for Auntie Kate anymore as I realized he wouldn’t be breaking any more eggs on your coffee table. And then, of course, you would have heard the completely selfish sobbing–because I quickly realized that the loss is personal. Big Al stories have been certain and reliable consolation and joy in a world that often seems dim at best, and even though I’m sure there will be more, I also know they won’t be the same. I still miss the days when my own son used to take a flashlight to the holes in the old-fashioned telephone receiver, trying to see the person on the other end of the line.

    Of course, Big Al will need you more and more as time goes by, even as he realizes it less and less. Keep your arms around him as best you can (I know you will). And I hope you will arrange a special place in your formidable archives for the Big Al collection, printed out and locked in a vault somewhere in case things go truly haywire before he gets old enough to jam a traffic cone into our broken world. I suspect the grownup Big Al won’t spend as much time savoring them as we have, but whatever woman is lucky enough to eventually take over for you, surely will.

    1. Lovely words, thank you! I have plans to put the lot into a Kindle – not for material gain, but to make Al widely available to those who have been with him all along like you, Barbara. I shall keep you posted πŸ™‚

  13. Oh, fantastic! Please do–and if you wouldn’t mind, send an email or something separately in case the announcement comes during one of those intermittent times (like the last couple of months) when I am so swamped I have to just ruthlessly delete all the blogs I subscribe to–even my favorites, and you’re at the top of that list– from my inbox without even opening them.

    If/when Big Al is available on Kindle, I will promote the heck out of it! (And I have nothing against monetary gain, especially when a writer has forgoing same in favor of spending time drawing stuff that matters on the cave wall of life while it’s still fresh.)

  14. I dare say that the Big Al stories may just morph into small novellas with the addition of the school playground. *clap hands*

  15. You know I love Big Al! And I’m a bit misty-eyed with you, Auntie Kate…your home will not suffer quite the same “industrial accidents” but the little boy will be moving on and that’s something tender and heart-wrenching all at once. My little Sophia goes to Big School in August. I’m feeling all at odds over it, and can already see that my time with her isn’t going to be quite the same. There’s a lot more competition on the horizon! I’m trying to be brave! πŸ™‚ I’ll take a lesson or two from Al! He has the confidence we all need! Debra

  16. Oh, Al! Felix will be so jealous. He’s upping his hours at preschool, but his birthday falls to late in the year to start Big School in the fall.
    The photo with Macaulay? Huge gooshy sighs for boys and dogs…

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