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Friday Slide Show: The Chalked Sidewalk Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

9 June 2017

Every year at this time, the sidewalk up the street is decorated with names written in colorful chalk. It's one of the graduation traditions of the grammar school on our block.

We're not affiliated with the school in any way except as neighbors. Although we always find it amusing to walk by during the school year when a folk dancing class is in session. That's how private schools have traditionally met the state's physical education requirement.

We see the kids arrive every morning. They actual run to school. We're not sure it's enthusiasm or the fear of being late and getting detention. But that's amusing, too.

They haul huge backpacks or pull heavy rollers with them as they climb the hill to the imposing school building with eight classrooms on two floors.

At Halloween, that march is particularly entertaining. The kids arrive in costume.

In the afternoon we sometimes see them flood out of the school building with even more enthusiasm than they entered it. Running downhill does not scare them.

We stepped gingerly among the names to record them this year. But we celebrate the achievement every year.

They jump in the cars that have arrived to pick them up for a snack and a start on their homework. Or walk home with a parent or a group of friends.

Eight years of it.

There is really not many groups you will be affiliated with for that long. The very same people, for the most part. Meeting for the first time around the age of 6 and parting ways at the age of 14, more of less.

Eight years of blackboards dusty with white chalk. Eight years of homework.

But when it's all over up the street, your name is scribbled on the sidewalk. Not in the white chalk of the classroom but in the colored chalk of hopscotch and sidewalk doodling.

We stepped gingerly among the names to record them this year. But we celebrate the achievement every year.

It may seem as if a class has graduated which suggests graduation itself is an inevitable group transition. But it isn't. It's an individual achievement.

Nobody else listened to the lessons for each of these students or did their homework or completed those wearisome special projects. They each had to draw their own still life or Impressionist painting in art class. Come up with something to say in a book report. Explain that test result to a parent. Learn from their own mistakes.

And that's why we find the names so touching.

There isn't even a Class of 2017 scribbled there. Just the names. And if two of them are the same, a little clarification too.

Go forth, as the valedictorians are found of saying. We need you. Each one of you.

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