From my vantage point through the driver’s side window it was a dazzling pastel display. It covered every inch of the blacktop leading to the garage. To the untrained eye, it was nonsense. To a mother—any mother—it was a work of art. The beauty evident as the random patterns danced separately and together until they bled into the blades of grass and disappeared.
As I sat there with my engine idling, transfixed, I smiled as I realized how much I missed the simplicity of sidewalk chalk.
Sidewalk chalk was the harbinger of spring. With three boys under the age of five, I was not always game for a trip to a playground but the bucket of sidewalk chalk was never any farther than the garage. That bucket represented freedom from long winter days spent at Chuckie Cheese or an indoor gym where you wasted hours convincing yourself that the rampant germs would make your children strong, healthy adolescents instead of scarring them for life.
Those fat, sturdy pieces of chalk were ideal for developing motor skills and more importantly, learning that perfection is not always attained inside the lines. There was no right or wrong answer there was only movement and whimsy.
Now those days of wiling away the hours squatting over the driveway, simply living in the moment, have yielded to graph paper and planners, backpacks and exams and the pressure to perform. All the crude attempts at spelling their names in big, powdery letters has somehow led to big homework assignments typed double-spaced on the computer.
Tests are graded, schedules are adhered to, homework is mandatory and our view through pastel colored glasses has dimmed.
Most days, outdoor activity is sandwiched between extracurricular obligations and homework and the longing for unbridled fun is palpable for us all. That bare, blacktop beckons well into the evening with the change to daylight savings each year.
Many think that the choice to be scheduled is by design, but I wonder if that is true.
For our teens and pre-teens, numbers no longer dot a crooked hopscotch hastily chalked for friendly competition. Numbers represent standardized testing, GPA’s, service hours, final scores in a hard fought game and mileage on the car as we drive to and fro.
These numbers are the reality of a college future where they seek well-rounded students. A world where day-dreamers need not apply. Even the summers, usually reserved for dreaming in a spot of shade, have been shortened by the expanding school year and filled with school work.
I long to haul out that bucket of chalk with its array of shades which presented opportunity to my budding artists. The color combinations were endless and no two pictures were ever the same.
In that respect, maybe the bucket is still half full. My boys can create their own rainbows with a world of opportunity open to them every day. Those lazy afternoons have washed away like sidewalk chalk after a spring storm, but maybe that is just part of the cycle and growth process.
The hope, for any mother, is that when her children glimpse those carefree days in the rearview mirror they look past the faded colors and the impression that remains makes them smile.