Thursday, October 1, 2015

Keeping a Child Safe

On days I don’t go to the gym, I take a brisk one-hour walk through my neighborhood.
One of my favorite routes passes an elementary school a mile away.

Except for dog-walkers, the streets are deserted at this early hour, but a few blocks from the school the sidewalks gradually fill with children in their colorful outfits and backpacks accompanied by a parent. Past the school I overtake the adults, often in chatty groups, as they head home.

Parents taking their children to school…. When did that start?...

I entered first grade in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1946. The school was three blocks away. My mother dressed me and showed me the door and, even in the dead of winter, I walked alone. I met friends along the way. I never saw an adult.

No big deal. But halfway through the year I took a test. Afterward my parents agreed that I could attend a special school for gifted children.

It required a six block walk and then a long streetcar ride. I made the trip alone every day. The school had a cafeteria, but, for reasons lost in history, I left the campus at noon and ate lunch, usually a hamburger, at a nearby diner. It cost a dime. Remember, I was six years old. I never regarded this as odd, and no adult I encountered gave me trouble.

It was not all smooth sailing. Once, years later in Los Angeles, I encountered a bully my own age who cuffed me around painfully.

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