“The four o’clock school jam,” I think, gazing at the caravan of cars inching ahead of me. It is mid-afternoon. The elementary schools, along my route were now releasing students to scramble homeward. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nannies, friends and neighbors all arrived to provide definition to what, otherwise, would be a chaotic ritual release of pent up energy awaiting the final bell of the day.
The release, slows traffic below the posted 20 mph and fills the narrow roadway with little bodies darting this way and that. A well posted intersection with yellow dedicated crosswalks and signs on four corners offers official protection for students, crossing the roadway, to northern neighborhoods.
Approached from east or west, the three block gauntlet appears like a branding chute to drivers who must each slow to a creep and await their turn to navagate. Potholes and collapsing shoulders test the agility of driver and vehicle. Pedestrians, traveling single file on both sides of the walkless roadway, daily scurry perilously sharing personal space with bicycles, adult tricycles, scate boards, scooters, and wheelchairs. It is a personal challenge fourteen times an afternoon, and I cannot avoid it.
Today, I recognize an old Mexican woman laboriously preparing to cross the roadway. She is twenty feet from the crosswalk awaiting an avantageous opening is the caravan of impatient drivers. Her flock of grandchildren have already begun jaywalking ahead of her. “Why doesn’t she gather them to her and use the cross walk,” I mumble as I slow down to give them plenty of room to clear the roadway. Her little ones dart between oncoming vehicles sending shivers up my spine.
This is not our first meeting. I have watched and grumbled about her display of oblivious caretaking for months. I flashback to navigating a sixty-eight passenger school bus around the streets of Monterrey, Mexico in the early seventies. Mexican streets, then, were loosely organized mayhem according to most Norte Americanos. No cross walks, or traffic lights. Intersections operated on a first-to-honk principle. Drivers weaved on both sides of thoroughfares. Pedestrians navigated like crows choosing the straightest routes to their destinations. “This was most likely her experience of origin,” I think, “I should be more understanding.”
I feel embers of admiration beginning to reignite as I think of her being here every day after school to sheperd her flock. She moves awkwardly, with a walrus hobble, eye on their every move, ignoring her obvious painful locomotion. She is faithfully helping her children care for their’s. Parents are most likely attempting to hold down one or more jobs to make ends meet. She provided the same attention to her children when they were young and now that they have little ones of their own, she is again there for them. There is strength in her care giving hobble. Joints worn rough by years working at low end jobs cleaning rooms and making beds for unappreciative strangers who are totally unaware that the one providing them hospitality also cares for a family as did ancestors before her. She bears a tradition that continues generation after generation shaping her young as they, even now, scatter before her.