Loom Knitting

One of the women in the building – a regular at our Friday afternoon knitting/craft sessions – has MS. At this point she’s in a wheel chair and has some (if impaired) use of her hands. A couple of years ago I thought she might be able to use a knitting loom, so I bought her one she could use to make a scarf. It took a while but she knit a 6′ scarf using the loom.

Then she wanted to try socks!

I found another knitting loom I thought might allow her to do that.

Loom with stitches on and two rows completed

The loom accommodates 60 stitches – with a heavyish sock yarn, I set up the loom for her and for the past two years JoAnn has been knitting every Friday afternoon. She’s just one of the knitters.

There are drawbacks to the system – I haven’t figured out a simple way of knitting a ribbing. We did without a ribbed top to the sock. Turning the heel required me to removed the stitches from the loom, put them on 3.5mm double pointed sock needles, knit the flap, turn the heel, and pick up the gusset, before returning the stitches to the loom (which required a bit of a stretch). JoAnn continued knitting the foot.

Yesterday, JoAnn thought she might have knit enough to finish off the sock. I took it home and last night I once again removed the stitches from the loom and knit the toe, finishing with the Kitchener Stitch, as I would any sock.

I washed the sock using Eucalan to soften the wool. Then I blocked it and hung it to dry. This morning I added a double thread elastic to the top edge to give it a bit more shape.

First sock finished

Looks like a sock. Should wear like a sock. I just hope it fits her foot. A wee bit too long I’m not going to worry about. Short? I’ll take off the toe, knit a few more rows, and redo the toe. But I think this foot length might just work.

I picked up the loom and yarn and started the second sock for her. I cast on the stitches and knit two rows. Having a finished sock might just encourage her to knit a bit more often than just for an hour or two on Friday afternoons. We might see a second sock sooner than 2025!

Friends

I recently read an interesting piece: I Need a New Group of Friends where Janet Torge, the author, laments growing away from friendships that have filled her past life. I’ve been thinking about her realization that she needs actively to search out new friends. 

Because I’ve moved about over the years, grew up in Halifax, lived in Toronto, in Winnipeg, spent a year in Italy, visited Australia, travelled, I’ve had various collection of friends over the years. I’ve learned friends are the people you have meals with, do things that interest you both, with whom you share laughter. Friends are people who help out if you’re in a pinch. Friends are those you stop to talk to regularly in the grocery store – the gal who runs the deli department, that special cashier who kibitzes with you when you’re checking out, the bank teller who takes time to chat. And after these past few years, I’ve come to realize my days are built around the solitary time I spend sewing, knitting, reading and writing and those conversations I pursue each day – the brief text messages, or emails about inconsequential things that may interest someone else. They all contribute to making me feel connected and each day satisfying.

I’ve never had a huge coterie of friends. I got burned in my early teens by a friendship group that turned on me when I defended one of the other girls for some minor “transgression.” It wasn’t until I was much older that I was able to build a broad coalition of friends. In Winnipeg, I learned to reach out to women interested in aspects of the world that interested me and others who expanded my horizons. I had a wonderful collection of friends there. 

When I returned to Halifax four years later, I discovered many friends had moved on and I was in need of new people in my life. I reached out to the gals in the swimming class. As I was singing along to the exercise music one of the women recommended I come along to a chorus rehearsal. That led to many years of singing baritone in a series of women’s barbershop choruses. Great fun that. I was also sewing a lot and reached out to other women who sewed. I started travelling with groups interested in textiles – Bali, Peru, Italy, San Francisco – I made friends all along the way. These days I have swimming friends, and sewing and knitting friends, those who have been friends for a long time, friends I’ve met as I’ve travelled, some more recent friends. 

In 2016 I moved into an apartment building – there were community activities – cribbage on Monday night, coffee Tuesday morning, other card games Thursday nights, knitters congregated on Friday afternoons. There was a core of people who participated in all these activities, others attended one or two. I decided to reach out to these folks, too. 

Even through COVID lockdowns we have managed to get together, both indoors and out. Months ago, when restrictions were lifted, we went  back to meeting regularly (some of us wearing masks, others comfortable without) but all of us enjoying the laughter which is an essential element of whatever’s going on.

As our lives change, our friends also change. Some fall by the wayside, new people come along. It’s important throughout our lives to keep reaching out to people, sustaining old friendships and building new ones.

Last week I had my 80th birthday. My niece and her sons, my nephew and his wife all arrived from Toronto just for the celebration. Seeing them in the doorway of the party room left me speechless. I wasn’t expecting them. It was a wonderful surprise having them there to celebrate with me. It was also terrific watching all of them work the room – walking up to strangers and asking “How do you know my Aunt Judith?” My grandnephews (now 20 and 21) have learned the art of a good opener! They had no difficulty engaging this gathering of mostly elderly women in interesting conversation – interesting for the gals as well as the boys. 

Grandnephews

So many people seem to forget how to start a conversation. Conversation is just storytelling; everybody has a gazillion stories to relate. “How do you know my Aunt Judith?” and another story is shared, building ties between people who moments before were strangers. In the elevator I’m joined by a couple carrying loaded grocery bags. “I see you were shopping!” – an easy conversation starter. The people in my apartment building all talk to one another in the elevator, in the lobby, in the garage. Everybody greets everyone else. It creates a sense of community everyone enjoys. 

Regardless of age, everybody needs friends. You just have to reach out. Noticing something about a stranger can let you ask a question that starts a conversation  – and maybe begins a new friendship!

Still Thinkin’ About Drunkard’s Path

I haven’t given up on Drunkard’s Path yet. Instead of the dull colours I started with, I’ve pulled 44 bright fabrics from my stash, mostly batik (and in the in end I may use only batik – I have lots more fat quarters to choose from), as well as a pile of blacks/whites/greys.

The idea this time – I intend cutting the quarter circle elements from the bright colours using the blacks/whites/greys as background. This idea comes from a quilt I came across on Pinterest

Here’s my plan – a 7 x 9 quilt – using 6″ blocks that gives me 42″ x 54″ which I can extend with borders to a largish throw.

My next step is to cut sixty-three quarter circle elements from the bright fabrics (there will be duplicates), and 63 squares from the blacks/whites/greys (selecting more from the lighter end of that collection), then sew them together.

I won’t know what this is going to look like until I get the pieces cut and laid out on the floor and then play around with layout. The quilt above uses the blocks in a straight layout – I may break that up somewhat to create a layered effect with some circles on top of others as I did with the Skyline Quilt #3.

Here goes….

White Amaryllis

This amaryllis was a Christmas present. When I opened the box the flower stalk had already grown substantially and at an odd angle to the bulb. There was also a “bulblet” at the base of the bulb. When I planted the bulb I placed it on its side to accommodate the flower stalk, I also left the offset intact hoping it might continue growing – so far no sign of it at the surface of the soil. When the flowers are finished blooming I’ll lift the bulb to see what’s happened with the bulblet – never know – might be able to salvage both the original bulb and a new one.

I set the pot on the ledge in front of my patio doors and left it alone (aside from watering it). Within a week the stalk had elongated to close to its final height, but it took another couple of weeks for the flower bud to show signs of opening. This week, the flowers appeared. I now have all four. It doesn’t look as if this bulb will produce a second stalk. The leaves which were present when I opened the box have become green but not grown any further, but they will as soon as this flower head is finished.

I’ve never had a white amaryllis before. I like the pale green centre. Not as dramatic as the various red and pink varieties but quite attractive none the less.

I’ll enjoy the flowers for another week or so, then I’ll cut the stalk back and let the leaves grow.

Seatbelt Covers

When you’re short, no matter how you try positioning your car seatbelt, the belt cuts into your neck when you’re wearing a t-shirt, or low cut top of some sort. In winter it’s not a problem but when I’m wearing light clothing I definitely have a problem.

A gazillion years ago a friend brought me a pair of seatbelt covers from Hawaii, of all places. I guess because they wear light clothing year round it was a solution to a pervasive problem, there. In any case, when that set of covers wore out, I made myself a new pair. Other people wanted some, so I did a small production. Each time I replace my old seatbelt covers, I make a batch for gifts.

8 Sets of Seatbelt Covers

The set I made for myself used a large floral print in red (I have a bright red car). Print fabric doesn’t wear as well as batik but I liked the colour. However, I’d bought these three batik fabrics on sale several weeks ago precisely with seatbelt covers in mind.

They’re easy to make.

  1. Cut a 7″ strip of fabric from the width of fabric (WOF), then cut that strip in half giving you two pieces – 7″ x 22″ each. Cut a piece of batting 6″ x 21 1/2″; lay it down the middle of the fabric aligning it with the cut fabric end, leaving the selvage edge with the fabric extended beyond the batting a wee bit. Fold the cut end about 1/3 of the way over the batting, bring the selvedge edge over that end and stitch at the selvege edge to secure both the fabric and batting. (Those are the two seams you see in the middle of the cover.) In other words, the overlapping seam which joins the ends of the fabric ends up in the middle of what will be the “under” side of the cover. The finished length of the cover should be close to 11″.
  2. Cut Velcro hooks and loops paired strips 10 1/2″ in length. Sew the loops (loop side up) to one long edge on the “top” side of the cover, turn the cover over, fold in the loop tape, tuck the top edge of fabric beneath the loop strip, then sew the other edge of the loop tape in place, turning under the bit of fabric extending beyond the Velcro when you get to the end. (That’s the seam you see along the length of the cover.)
  3. Attach the hooks strip to the second long side of the cover, again sewing first on the “top” side, then folding the tape to the under side and stitching it down.
  4. Fold the cover in half, and press the loops and hooks together. That’s it. You’re done!

Here is a link to instructions with photos that I provided the last time I made seatbelt covers.

BTW, this is all procrastination – I’ve got to get going on a new quilt and I have no idea what to make. I’ve been looking at photos on Pinterest looking for something interesting to tackle.

There are lots of interesting possibilities for improvisation:

I don’t have patterns, just ideas. Laid out like this, the Blocks and Stripes, and colourful Drunkard’s Path seem to be calling. Next step – go through fabric scraps and see what I can find there before going through the larger fabrics in my stash. I just gotta get started on something….

Just Another Day

Today’s my birthday – 80 years old today.

It’s a milestone of some sort, I guess. Eighty relegates me to that group of people most vulnerable to succumbing to COVID-19, or having a serious case of the flu that’s going around, at risk of experiencing a severe cold that could land me in hospital.

In my head, however, I’m feeling none of what seems to be expected of a typical 80 year-old person. I’m still reasonably fit, interested in what’s going on in the world, actively engaged in creative pursuits. Not bored, not lonely, not feeling unproductive, neglected, or useless. In other words, I’m not feeling OLD.

Today, I went to the aquafit class as I have done every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the past 27 years. I worked through the same routine I always do as vigorously as usual. I then spent an hour and a half sharing English with Ahmad and Basira and their boys, recent Afghan refugees to Canada – something I’ve been doing for the past two months. I’ve had a bunch of phone calls with people I haven’t heard from in quite some time wishing me a happy birthday, including my 98 year old Aunt Goldie in Toronto. I have some sewing I intend to resume after I’ve written this. Later, I’m having dinner with some friends in the building – not a birthday party, but leftovers from the holiday season.

My life seems to be continuing as it has for the past couple of decades. Today feels just the same as yesterday.

Instead of slowing down, I lament that there aren’t enough hours in a day to accomplish all the things I want to get done!

Making Kugel With Huxley Before Christmas

Today will come and go. It’s really just another day in this cycle we call a life.

More 6×6

My “Modern Flowers” in the centre of the display

The Ice House Gallery show, in Tatagamouche, went up on Dec 3. All of the wall art conformed to the 6×6 challenge – amazing the diversity of the offerings, the show as a whole was stunning. I didn’t actually get to Tatamagouche but Brandt posted photos of the show and of individual pieces (mine are near the bottom of the posting) – you can get a feeling for what you’d experience were you to walk into the gallery.

The show will get taken down coming week, I imagine. Brandt was pleased with sales in the first couple of days. I have no idea whether any of my work actually sold. Brand will bring my pieces back to town sometime soon.

Finished At Last

The yarn: Lang Twin Soxx. The 100g ball of 4-ply sock yarn is set up to make a single pair of socks. The trick is finding the length of white yarn somewhere in the middle (after you’ve finished the first sock) which marks the beginning of the second! I’ve missed it both times now. I got several rows past the cuff on the second sock before I realized my pattern wasn’t going to match up. I cut the yarn, kept pulling it out, until I found the white “marker” and started again.

The yarn definitely makes an interesting looking sock. Interesting to knit since the pattern keeps changing, no repeating, all the way to the toe.

I’d originally bought two balls of this yarn. I’ve knit both of them. Now to ball up some of the skeins I have in my yarn basket to get on with my 2023 batch of socks.

Holiday Treat

Candied Fruit In Dark Rum

When I decided I wasn’t going to make a sewn project for the Knitting Group gals, I decided instead to put together jars of candied fruit in dark rum.

It’s the same concoction I use to make the fruit cake: candied fruit (the less expensive variety at Bulk Barn), raisins, dried cranberries, chopped up dates all drenched with half a 750 ml bottle of dark rum.

I didn’t measure the ingredients, I just added them to my 27 quart Tupperware bowl with a lid – it ended up slightly more than 3/4 full. I did what I do with the Christmas cake fruit – I flip the bowl twice a day so the rum has a chance to drain through the fruit until there’s none left in the bottom of the bowl – between 5-7 days.

I bought a lot of fruit – I don’t know the quantity by weight – it was four of the Bulk Barn large plastic containers full, plus a small one I already had a home which I was going to use to make a sheet of Christmas Bars (recipe available if you click on the link). I ended up with 18 Mason jars full of candied fruit (my friend Ruby gave me her supply of Mason jars, I didn’t have to buy any).

Once I’d filled the jars with fruit, I divided the remaining half bottle of rum among the 18 jars (I only use Rum to make the Christmas cake, no point in it sitting around. I’ll buy another bottle next year.)

To be honest, I’m not going to bake the Christmas Bars – they’re lovely but none of us needs the added sweet. So instead my gift this year is this jar of candied fruit in rum.

A teaspoonful is WONDERFUL on a small scoop of vanilla ice cream! You could put a slice of pound cake beneath the ice cream and you’d have fancy dessert. These jars are small but I know there are many teaspoons full of pleasure in each.

Now I need to decorate the tops of the jars and label them. They’re just going to people who really like rum. I don’t plan on handing out any to someone who’s just going to put it in the fridge and forget about it – it’s just too good to be ignored.

BTW – I finished both aprons and the microwave potato bags today. That leaves the Kantha jacket to remake.

Taking Off

In the news recently “Parents allege kids isolated, restrained at Whitehorse school“. The headline tells the story. The parents are furious. The Department of Education is investigating. The CBC is making a big deal about it. But nobody is offering the teachers’ experience.

It’s easy to blame the teacher. The parent all say these children, mostly boys I do believe, are “fine” at home. I’m not in such a hurry to believe that. The norms of behaviour at home are likely VERY different from the collective social behaviour teachers work so hard to establish in their classrooms.

Yesterday I was talking to my niece, an experienced teacher in her last year of teaching 5 year olds. She is finding these post-COVID-19 confined children the most difficult she’s ever had to deal with. She has at least 12 children all needing special attention and no way in a class of 29 can she manage that on her own. She has an assistant. Even that help isn’t enough to keep her classroom running smoothly. She’s glad she has just six and a half months to go before it’s over. She’s in survival mode. Forget about teaching much of anything. Although she’s sure at least half her class is progressing she just doesn’t have time to keep a close eye on those children – she’s just barely managing to keep the lid on the group.

I thought back to my own teaching in a special education classroom in 1971 and the piece I’d written many years afterward!

From the teacher’s side of the desk.

Take Off

Judith M. Newman

The intercom buzzed. “Please answer that Anita,” I asked. Anita rose from her seat, skipped across the room and stretched to, press the answer button with her fingertips.

“Hello,” she said.

“Is Miss Newman there?” 

“Yes.”

“Can she come to the intercom?”

“No she can’t. She’s sitting on Gerry,” Anita replied.

A pause. 

“Well, will you tell her to be sure to bring her register to the office as soon as possible. It’s late.” 

“I’ll tell her,” she said. She turned to see if I had heard. I nodded and without saying anything, Anita marched back to her seat and resumed whatever it was she had been doing. 

Sitting on Gerry. 

I seemed to be doing that more and more these days. Gerry was behaving with less control than ever – or maybe it was simply that I had less resilience for handling his unruly behaviour. I was swamped by the work involved in keeping this special ed class afloat. Weak learners all of them, the children were very dependent on my support and direction. They were reluctant to attempt much of anything on their own. I needed to offer individual input and encouragement repeatedly during the day. 

To create that time I had set up an instructional agenda for each child. The preparation was a nightmare. I would spend the entire weekend working up a collection of individual lessons for each of the twelve children for that week. In addition, I had to gather or prepare materials for any group activities I wanted to try. There was no time left over for any relaxation.

Then there was the matter of their behaviour. The children actively avoided engaging in learning activities. They were forever out of their seats, bothering one another. It took an enormous amount of energy to persuade them to just try. The classroom was simply chaotic. 

It was their behaviour that kept them isolated from the rest of the school. Because they were forever fighting with the other children the administration had decided they should spend recess and lunch in the classroom. That meant I had no opportunity to be alone from eight in the morning when I arrived ahead of the bus and four in the afternoon when the last child was picked up. Just getting to the bathroom was a major undertaking since the children couldn’t be left unattended. 

It didn’t take long to realize I had really been hired just to baby-sit these nine to twelve year olds. No one expected me to teach them much of anything. The message was quite clear: just keep them quiet and under control. That was why the class was located where it was, a safe distance away from the other classes. We couldn’t disrupt anyone else at the back of the school next to the janitors. 

What was the problem with Gerry? It wasn’t that his behaviour was so dreadful. He wasn’t overtly malicious towards the other children. He didn’t attack them physically, although he was hitting out at me often.

No, it had more to do with how I was struggling to deal with his Inability to sustain himself at any task for more than a couple of minutes. I understood that he needed more room. But I was trapped. While I wanted to extend him more freedom, if I let him wander, Anita, David and Sharon promptly followed suit and instead of having one unmanageable child in the class, I had four. Four unengaged children were more than I could handle alone. 

So there I was sitting on Gerry again. 

What had he done this time? He’d been away from his seat as usual.  This time, he’d ensconced himself beneath the corner painting table with his old dinky truck and I knew he hadn’t even looked at the reading assignment I’d asked him to try. 

Exasperated, I watched him for a moment. There he sat cross legged, another rip in the left knee of his jeans, probably from a recent fight, running the toy truck across the floor in front of him. “Vroom, vroom,” again and again, oblivious to the goings on elsewhere in the room, or maybe not. As I observed, I caught him glance at me and away again. He was aware I was watching, perhaps challenging me to make him return to his seat.

As I approached the table, I quickly surveyed the room. Half of the children were productively engaged. The rest were watching me, curious, I suspected, about how I was going to handle Gerry this time. 

I reached Gerry and knelt down. I touched his arm to stop the play, then held out my hand, palm upward — a request for the toy. Gerry hesitated.  He positioned the truck in front of his feet, then he snatched it from the floor and hurled it at me. Not hard, but it grazed my leg and flew across the room.

I grabbed his shoulder and pulled him to his feet in front of me. “I’d  like you to pick it up,” I told him firmly. He looked at me defiantly. 

Here we were again. Being drawn into the now familiar battle of wills. I wanted him to extend some small effort on his school work, to try to engage. He consistently balked, challenging me to take charge which provoked further resistance from him. I would insist; he’d hit out then I would be pushed to contain him. 

That’s why I was now sitting on the floor holding an immobilized, yet struggling, child in the middle of the classroom. 

How had we reached this impasse? 

I recalled the day Gerry joined the class. I had been reading to the children when I caught movement out of the  corner of my eye. When I turned, there he was framed in the doorway. 

A smallish boy. Blond, somewhat tousled hair, clear blue eyes. He was just standing there, a red lunch pail in one hand by his side. The scruffy sneakers, his well worn jeans, baggy green cardigan evoked a Rockwell image. It was his guarded expression which caught my attention, though. 

“Can I help you?” I asked. 

“I’m here for school,” he said. 

“Which room are you looking for?

“Twelve.” 

“Well, you’ve come to the right place. C’mon in,” I invited him. 

Slowly dragging his feet, he entered.

I approached him with my hand extended — he didn’t accept my gesture of welcome. “I’m Miss Newman,” I told him, ” Who are you?”

“Gerry.” 

“Do you have a last name?” I asked.

“Rogers.” 

“Welcome, Gerry Rogers,” I said as I steered him toward the coat rack at the side of the room and pointed to the other lunch pails on the shelf above it. Gerry added his bright new pail to the collection then I drew him towards the group of children crowded around a table. 

There had been eleven assorted girls and boys in the class. Gerry made it twelve. 

I offered him a chair. He slumped into the seat, his feet extended under the table, his hands clasped tightly in his lap. Although he didn’t look around,  I was aware of him sizing us up. 

I introduced him to the others and then explained that we were reading a story together. I gave him my copy of the book. He took it, placing it on the table in front of him. He folded his arms across his body, as if to ward off the book. Without raising his head he mumbled, “Can’t read.”

“Everyone’s following along as I read,” I said to him. “Here, I’ll help you.” 

I placed my chair beside his, positioned the book between us and began pointing to the words as I continued reading where I’d left off. Voices chimed in as I read what had become a now familiar story to the other children. 

As I finished the chapter, I glanced at Gerry. He was still firmly slumped in his chair, arms tightly folded across his body, eyes downcast. I was afraid we were going to be in for a difficult time. 

During the following weeks my fears were realized. Gerry engaged me in a standoff. No matter what invitation I offered, he refused to engage. Any reading activity was out of the question. There was no point in asking him to write anything. His math proficiency was minimal. There wasn’t a great deal he could or would attempt on his own. That pushed my ingenuity to the limit.  Whatever I offered him had to have the semblance of school work or I’d face rebellion from the others. So playing with plasticine, or stringing beads was out of the question. Each weekend I’d create a battery of things for Gerry to do, wondering if anything would catch his interest. First thing Monday morning I’d find my work in vain. 

In late September and early October when half of the class was absent for the Jewish holidays Gerry was a different child. With only four others vying for my attention I was able to spend more time by his side. As long as I stayed beside him he remained involved. And in the smaller group his wandering was less disruptive. I could keep the others busy while ignoring what Gerry was doing. But with a full house life was hectic. 

Gerry would be one of the first to arrive in the morning. He’d shuffle his way into the room, drop his lunch pail in the vicinity of the coat rack, and begin wandering aimlessly. As I watched him, I could feel my tension build.  Did I have the energy to make it through the day? 

Then came the day when I pushed Gerry too far. I could tell from the moment he entered the room something was wrong. I tried to settle him down with some work but he was restless. He reluctantly picked up his pencil, quickly tossed it aside and turned away from the notebook. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a small toy truck and began wheeling it across the surface of the table. 

We had one class rule: no toys. I had banned toys because at the first indication of frustration the children would haul out a toy as a way of avoiding the school work. Whether they wanted to or not, I was determined they would engage with learning activities. So no toys. 

But here was Gerry blatantly flaunting the rule. I watched for a moment then went over to him. I asked him to put the truck in his lunch pail.  He ignored me and continued wheeling the toy across the table top. I knelt beside him and asked him to put the toy away. No response. I made a move to take the truck from him. An outburst. Wildly flailing, Gerry hit at me shouting obscenities. I grabbed his wrists in my hands, swung him around so his arms were immobilized across his body and sat us both on the floor. 

Holding him tightly, I tried calming him down. 

“You can’t hit people,” I said to him. “I’ll let go as soon as you’re quiet. We can talk about why you’re so angry.” 

At that moment I saw for the first time the cigarette burn scars on the backs of his hands. 

Gerry wasn’t my only problem. The other children were incredibly demanding and the more my conflict with Gerry escalated, the more demanding they became. I began to feel near the end of my tether. I needed some relief. 

I tried obtaining a little free time for myself each day. I approached the principal with an idea. Would it be possible for someone to stay with the children during lunch? There were no funds in the budget to cover such exigencies, I was told. The children would have to be supervised and I would have to do it. I had another idea. Couldn’t we team up these children with others who lived in the neighbourhood and have them go home for lunch.  Well, the behaviour of these children was unpredictable. It wasn’t a good idea to inflict them on the community. No, I would simply have to stay with them.  Could I, then, contact the Home and School to see if I could interest some of the parents in volunteering in the class. It wasn’t the parents’ responsibility to teach my children. After all I only had twelve of them to work with. Surely  I could manage the class. 

I was no longer so sure I could.

With each passing day my resources were stretched thinner. Without any support, each encounter with Gerry brought me closer to the brink. 

Early in October I had thought the children would enjoy an outing. A trip to the airport seemed like it might be fun so I contacted the school board’s transportation department to schedule a school bus. A week later, however, I received a call informing me that the buses were engaged for the particular day I’d requested — the trip was off and I thought no more about it. I was more than a little surprised, therefore, when on November 23rd there was a knock on the classroom door and the bus driver announced: “Ready to take you to the airport.” 

I considered for a moment and made a rash decision. I would take the class, including Gerry, on the airport trip. I notified the office about our improvised excursion then directed the children to prepare. We grabbed our coats and lunch pails. We marched in some vague semblance of a line out the nearest exit beside the janitors’ room and boarded the waiting bus.

The trip to the airport foreshadowed what was to come. The children were rowdy, bouncing around in their seats, pushing one another, yelling at the top of their voices. It seemed as if, once released from the constraints of the classroom, all self-control evaporated. By the time we reached the airport I knew I’d made a dreadful mistake but it was too late to do anything about it.

When the bus arrangements had fallen through I’d dropped all plans for the trip. There would be no guided tour of the facilities, no other adult on hand to help keep the lid on this rambunctious group. What if one of them became separated in the crowd, how would I locate a missing child and still keep track of the others? And the bathroom. I dreaded to think of Gerry loose on his own in the men’s room without an adult to supervise. 

No sooner had the bus dropped us at the departure level than we were caught up in the bustle of the terminal building. I paraded the children past the ticket counters toward the gate area. Windows lined the large outer circular corridor and planes parked at the various ramps were readily visible.  We gathered to look at one large jet. Passengers were boarding from the adjacent lounge and the cockpit crew could be seen making preparations for their upcoming flight.

The children had loads of questions. 

“Where is this plane going?” 

“Where’s it come from?” 

“Which one is the pilot?” 

“How many people can it take?” 

“How does the food get on?” 

“Where does the luggage go?” 

I was busy with explanations, not watching the children very closely.  Their interest and excitement kept me occupied so it was several moments before I realized, with a sudden sinking feeling, that something was wrong.  Gerry was nowhere in sight. 

It took a while to gain the children’s attention. Had anyone seen Gerry?  Had he told anyone where he was going? 

“No, Miss Newman,” came a unanimous reply. 

Now I was in a panic. What to do? I knew I couldn’t go off to search for Gerry on my own, nor could I disperse the children to look for him for fear I’d lose someone else. I decided the safest course would be to locate the airport police and enlist their help. 

Finding the police was easier said than done, however. I spent a good ten minutes, with the entire troupe in tow, weaving my way through the crowded terminal, trying not to lose anyone else. When we still hadn’t found a policeman, I dragged the children to one of the less busy ticket counters to ask for help. 

“Please, I need the police,” I said to the ticket agent. “I’ve lost a child.  He’s wandered away from the group and I have no idea where he is.” 

The agent contacted the police who immediately appeared. I described Gerry and said I thought it quite likely they might find him in one of the many washrooms. It was not inconceivable that he might even have drifted  into one of the women’s toilets, I told them. 

With the police now tracking him down, I stationed the children in a row of seats to wait and worry. In fifteen minutes Gerry was back. He’d become bored with the plane and had decided to explore on his own. He’d found the escalator in the middle of the terminal and had been riding it between the arrival and departure level. That’s where an officer had found him. 

My resources nearly exhausted, I decided the thing to do was to get the children away from the crowd as quickly as possible. Since none of them had ever flown, I thought they would enjoy watching the planes take off and land.  The best vantage point for such viewing is from the top floor of the parking garage. The open west side of the building faces the runway and you have a clear view of the steady incoming and outgoing air traffic. Besides, I could more easily keep my eye on everyone there. 

So I marched the children, lunch pails in hand, through the crowd to the elevators. I bundled them aboard the first one to arrive, pushed P10 and breathed a sigh of relief. As the elevator rose, I explained to the children  where we were headed and how I expected them to behave. 

“We’re going to the roof of the building,” I said. “You’ll need to be careful near the wall. If you lean too far, you might fall over and it’s a long way down. Be careful!” I shouted as the elevator doors opened and they tore out. I followed behind past the few cars parked on that level toward the  outside wall of the garage to watch the planes. 

Although mid-morning isn’t a terribly busy time at Pearson Airport, there was some traffic. We could see a DC9 readying for take off at the far end of the runway. The children stretched to pull themselves up onto the parapet so they could see more clearly. Bunched together at one location they jostled for position. 

“You can spread out,” I told them. “There’s no need to push.” I moved behind them trying to help them settle down. 

The plane revved its engines and began to taxi down the runway. We watched it slowly gain speed. As it came abreast of us the nose lifted and the plane began a steep ascent. Gerry stood on his lunch pail. 

With the roar of the engines at full throttle I felt Gerry strain to pull himself up and onto the wall to watch the take off. I reached to restrain him and see myself catching one of his legs in my hand and lifting it sharply,  unbalancing him: 

arms fly out feet rise
the soles of his sneakers pass in front of my face
a sky diver, his body hangs suspended 
arms wide
legs spread behind him 
wind flaps at the falling body  
silent screams masked by the engines’ roar 
plane lifting
hung in the overwhelming middle of things 
amazement at the dumbfounding ease of a nightmare unfolding 
heat shimmering from the runway
plane banking left into wisps of low level cloud 
a flock of small birds
swooping over the grassy verge 
miniature cars along the 401 
lunch pail skidding 
thump 
bloody red chin

I turned to see Gerry in a heap on the floor beside me, his moans drowned by the roar of the still climbing jet. 

“I warned you to be careful, didn’t I?” I said shaken. He reached toward his chin, drawing away a bloody hand. I just stood there, watching, making no move to help him. Wiping the blood on his jeans he looked up at me. His clear blue gaze guarded. For a moment he stared, then he quickly scrambled to retrieve his lunch pail from beneath a nearby car. 

I hastily gathered the other children into a group, and oblivious to their protests and complaints I hurried them across the garage and aboard a waiting elevator. When we reached the departure level I herded them toward the car  park and onto the waiting bus.

Once back at school I settled them for lunch and headed for the office. 

“I’ve had it,” I said. “Someone will have to replace me.”

Then I turned and took off. 

_______________________________

This is what it looks like from the other side of the desk!