Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Girl in the Puddle

This day in time, you'd think someone had lost his mind. Back then, cars didn't have seat belts, and kids didn't use booster seats. The Surgeon General had not warned anyone that cigarettes cause cancer.Bottled water didn't come in containers that contained PBA's because water came out of a tap, and everything else came in glass bottles. No one had measured crib slats nor decided of what kid-friendly surfaces playgrounds should be composed.

I suppose, then, it is not a huge leap to understand how a school could decide that an appropriate playground surface was asphalt. We went home for the summer, came back in the fall, and found that our beloved playground had been completely surfaced in asphalt. Knee-scraping, head-cracking asphalt. Makes your toes curl in horror, doesn't it?

I had a love hate relationship with that place. As eager as I was for the freedom of recess, I hated what the powers that be had done to our mid-day haven of rest. Despite the atrocity, that surface offered a magical moment I've never forgotten.

The late summer rain had come and gone. The puddles had disappeared into the thick, humidity laden air waiting to be recycled into a new thunderstorm. My friend and I had wandered far afield that day as we dreamed the dreams that little girls dream when lost in play. Carefree preoccupations muffled our awareness of what was going on around us. Unbeknownst to us, the class was preparing to return to the classroom.

The teacher had warned us all to stay away from the lone remaining puddle. What can I say? It was huge. Kids were born for puddles. We had not mounted a full tilt assault because we were good little girls who minded our teacher. It had taken us most of our recess period to meander ever closer to the forbidden promised land.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
At last, we stood in awe at the perfectly mirrored surface. It was as if we were looking through Alice's magic looking glass. “Look,” I said, “It's like magic! It looks as if you could just step into the puddle and right into an opposite and perfect universe!”

As I spoke, I lifted my 2nd grade foot and held it poised above the puddle wishing I could do just so. Wouldn't life be grand if perfection required only a simple step through a looking glass into a perfect universe of our own design? My foot dangled in the air with ballerina-like precision. If only...if only I could slip into that other world.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The ear-splitting shriek of the teacher's playground whistle startled me so completely that I nearly fell into the puddle. I suppose it was the grace of God because it must have been his angels who steadied me, or I surely would have taken a bath. “I told you girls to stay AWAY from that puddle! Don't you dare step in that water,” she said with a warrior's cry as shrill as her whistle.

My little chin began to quiver. I was the one who got a perfect 'O' for 'outstanding' in my marks for citizenship. Had she forgotten who I was? I tried to reassure her that she had it all wrong as I vainly told her about that new and magical place I had discovered.

The urgency of her day pushed us forward. I looked over my shoulder as we filed inside knowing that when I again escaped the classroom, the sun would have robbed the playground of its magic.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Over 4 decades have come and gone since then. She died just a few years later after a courageous battle with cancer. I am now old enough to be the mother of a teacher just the age she was that day on the playground.

I close my eyes. I am again the little girl whose dainty shoe is poised just above the puddle. Now as then, the puddle sky is bluer, the puddle trees greener, and the 2 fairy princesses far more royally resplendent than the reality reflected by the puddle.

I smile and wonder where the time went and how she became me. Where is the little girl who saw wonder and magic everywhere? How has she become the aging face staring back from the mirror while I look for traces of the girl whose face I saw in the puddle. 
Courtesy B. Creasy

Psalm 37:25 (NAS)
I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread.


  1. Thank you. I love reminiscences of those days. I'll have to talk with you about my coming -of-age novel set in 1969.

  2. Yes, I could consult on that altho' I was merely a tweenager about that time. I'm not sure I ever came of age tho'...lol...would that be an issue do you think?

  3. My character, Gus, is 12 in the story. I was in ninth grade in 1969.