The window was right there, just a couple of feet to my left. I was in fourth grade, Mrs. Cronk’s class (yes that was actually her name!), Thomas Jefferson School. My classmates and I sat and squirmed, stared at the chalk board, poked at one another when the teacher’s back was turned, sometimes sighed with boredom, sometimes learned something new and surprising, still remembered to this day. We watched the clock at the front of the room, the minutes ticking by at a painfully slow pace, three o’clock our magic hour of release.
But my view from the window called to me. In the late summer the leaves of the trees were still green. Just beyond that blue house on the corner with the worn front step was a field where I often played football. And at the end of the street, at the edge of my vision, was a yard where a friendly dog lived. He would be sleeping just a about now, in the shade of that tree in their front yard.
In fall the leaves turned, and I watched this miraculous process unfold through my classroom window, day after day. I knew as I sat at my desk that acorns were collecting at the base of an old oak tree, that the wind was blowing fallen leaves along the sidewalk, that a leaf pile I had jumped in just yesterday was waiting for another chance. The air was crisper, and out in the school yard a gym class played kickball.
In the winter mounds of snow piled up in the school parking lot. When I stole a glance out my window I could see the largest of those piles to my left. We had played king of the hill on it that morning, reluctantly entering our classrooms wet and cold, with flushed cheeks, numb hands and feet. There was unfinished business on that greying mound of snow, if only the clock would somehow find its way to ‘3.’
In early spring my window framed a view of melting ice and snow, of grey trees silently and inscrutably watching the length of the days, feeling the temperature, their tops bare and exposed to the still cold wind. A fifty degree day was a revelation! Looking out my window I knew what the walk home would be. We would shed our jackets, kick stones down the street, poke at the melting snow with sticks fallen from the trees during the winter, stomp in a puddle or two just for good measure.
For school might hold us for a while, but outside the window was an adventure waiting to happen, each walk home a journey of exploration, with a sense of freedom and independence, of possibility, of becoming. The window looked out on my small home town, the narrow streets, the neatly trimmed lawns, the cracked sidewalks and running rows of hedges. But it also looked out on a big world, grand and open, mountains, rivers, hills, vast plains. A day would come when I would go there, too.