Almanac Life: Our Big Black Shoes

 

 

 

 

 

It was the shoes that got me.

 

Although our son’s first day of school had officially been the Friday prior, it seemed more ceremonial than anything else – a photo opportunity of a half day that allowed first time parents like us the chance to see which streets were the best for parking and whether the uniform could be kept clean for the two minute commute (which we still allowed ten minutes for).

 

It was after the following Monday morning drop off where the emotion hit me like a ruler on a chalky duster. The thought of our oldest leaving the fun days behind and sitting there in hard, black shoes for five days a week. The listening, the attention-paying, the sitting up straight. The requirement to ‘follow suit’ and complete a task that he may not be interested in. We knew he needed it, we knew he was ready and we were pretty sure he would love it. But still – the rules, the rigidity.

 

The shoes.

 

Today was ‘wear your PJs’ day for the morning Zoom call. We saw classmates in Paw Patrol dressing gowns, Elsa nighties and our Rory was determined to promote his cutting-edge ‘glow in the dark’ number. With this being my first day as home school headmaster, I was comforted by the patience and good humour shown by our teacher Caitlin, who was quick enough to ask Rory whether this technology meant he found it difficult to get to sleep. With the ‘innocent yet deadpan’ schtick that only a prep can provide, Rory assured her that ‘no, I just try and wiggle until I get into a comfy spot’.

 

The next few hours were a glimpse into that classroom life and manner that your child has created completely independently of you, while being achingly familiar at the same time. I was heartened to see him wielding a colour pencil (no interest in drawing in the three previous lockdowns) and seeing a child’s writing flourish could surely make a boarding school matron grin. We did ‘PE’ together, which included a trip to the nearby aths track – though I was reminded that he did that with Mum yesterday.

 

My Friday novelty has been my wife’s routine this week and much more than that for many others across the state – though not just for these five days but for many months last year. My sister and her hubby guided our niece through her prep year last year – and, like us, have a delightfully endearing and chatty four year old on the books. Then there’s our next door neighbours with three boys at primary school, our other neighbours with two boys, friends with three girls, other friends with three across two schools. All with the parents working and mainly doing so at home.

 

We were, however, able to see the bright side this week as our ‘full house’ meant that we enjoyed our youngest’s fourth birthday together. A Tuesday birthday that would normally be eaten into by commutes, office work and drop offs was instead punctuated by costume changes and neighbours wishing Phoebe well from the nature strip. Sure, the playcentre party for this Saturday has been postponed but I’d be staggered if the ‘Princess Room’ could deliver the same satisfaction as having your parents and brother around all day and picking up very early that your every wish would be catered for (within the house anyway).

 

While our political leaders have this week chosen to invoke ‘stranger danger’ messaging, the rest of us (parents or otherwise) haven’t had the luxury of preaching such messages and have just been getting on with things. While being cautioned at midday that we’re under a ‘beastly’ attack, at 8pm we’re plotting our ‘radius’, joyous beyond belief that a highly accidental playground meeting could conceivably occur with loved ones 5800m away (‘we’ll park at this end and you park at that end and then maybe…’) While the news and headlines are full of ever-changing and increasingly hideous variants, the excruciatingly law-abiding people of Melbourne are just as concerned with various ways to walk to the café for a takeaway. Never mind trying to ‘support’ a high end restaurant via home delivery, when 24 months ago the same establishment probably offered a 5:30pm and an 8:30pm sitting while advising that ‘they do things a bit differently here’.

 

So while the kids Zoom in their PJs, we put our big black shoes on, check the news, listen to the rules and see how we’ll get through the next week. I’d like to think that the majority of folk realise it’s not just about us – and that’s why we listen. It’s why we read the warnings, we wash the hands, we check the radius. We think of grandparents, of the ill, of the five person funerals, the postponed weddings, the closed businesses and the remote birthday ‘parties’. We don’t do it because the teacher is telling us so. We do it because we want it to be better. For it be over. For the bell to ring.

 

For a while a Dad’s Friday can be made with some drawing and some laps of the aths track, a kid needs to learn and play with other kids. Like us, they need the rules, but only to allow them to focus on what matters and what doesn’t. To not look back on a winter spent doing homework with your parents, but on hours in schoolyard and the lifetimes of friendships thereafter.

 

Hopefully we can all soon stop wiggling and get into that comfy spot.

 

 

Read more from Andrew Else (just as good as this piece) HERE.

 

 

The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE

 

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About Andrew Else

Andrew has self-reported to this site as a lifetime Essendon supporter. He also played local footy for Lara and Melbourne Uni Blacks.

Comments

  1. Love it A. Else. On the money. Your piece stirs the memory. That horrid tension that your young one is having his wings clipped while being encouraged to fly. I was sad for ages – and asking big questions. But Theo helped me answer them.

    Thanks for this A. Else. Love your family chronicles.

  2. Beautiful piece Andrew!

    Reminds me of many things, in particular an old pair of black no-name shoes I had (we couldn’t afford Clarks) – they were just bloody uncomfortable and made the school day that bit more frustrating than it already was.

    Thanks for sharing, hope the rest of lockdown goes well.

  3. Anne Marie Palmer says

    Love it Andrew
    As a teacher it is pleasing to hear positives from the other side of the screen
    It is certainly different times and those shoes have been replaced by ugg boots and slippers for awhile

  4. Really enjoyed this A.Else. Plenty to contemplate.

    Love the “excruciatingly law abiding people of Melbourne”. We just plod on.

  5. Rulebook says

    Superb Andrew ! Lots of meaning !

  6. Cracking story Andrew. Black shoes are evocative memory prompters, An additional contribution to those old brand names what about the good old Bata Scouts with the distinctive paw print on the sole.

  7. Lovely piece of writing AE. Took me a while to get the metaphor, which made it all the sweeter. I am having my first vaccination shot next Friday, having procrastinated over 1 in 62,000 complications. Hopefully the Victorian lockdown has woken up many other Australians to the fact that this IS a race. If we don’t get there the virus will.

  8. Lovely read. Clearly recall feeling of being tied into the conformity of school, especially in those early years. Strangely, or maybe not so strangely I didn’t have that feeling when my own kids took off for their first days. School life is far more welcoming than it once was.

  9. Andrew Else says

    Thanks all for the lovely comments. Always thoughtful at the Almanac. (It IS a race PB. It really is)

  10. Simon Andrew costello says

    Nice work Rusty!
    As the 5 th boy in my family I never got the luxury of a new pair..
    Miss your Blacks musings
    Harry

  11. Lisa Jones says

    Really enjoyable piece Andrew, thank you!

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