We came to the end of our alloted lunch time. Ms. Jewls walked around with the rubbish bin on wheels, the kids tossed their trash and prepared for step two — carrying their trays and whatever food products were left over to the food garbage bin. The five year olds know to stand up, then pick up their trays and walk to the disposal area. The four year olds need verbal reminders, “Stand first. Now pick up your tray.” The three year olds need hands-on help. Once they stand up, they can no longer reach the tray left on the table.
So imagine my surprise when the last kid sitting at the table is five year old Harry. “Yo,” I called. “Let’s go.”
Harry, not even trying to move, responded, “My shoes falled off.”
Well, of course his shoes fell off. He’d come to school that morning in love with his brand new Crocs, but by lunch time he was much less besotted. They were two sizes too big and had spent the morning tripping him up. I looked under the table. There were his shoes, four inches below his dangling feet. I said, “Okay, Harry, then you need to pick your shoes up and put them on.”
“Oh!” He said brightly. “I can doed zhat!” He scrambled off the bench, then bent over it and grabbed his left shoe. Next, he stuck his right foot under the bench and tried to slip the shoe on it. (If you have a mental picture of a very small kid curled around a bench trying to put his plastic shoe on the wrong foot, then I am telling this story well.)
“Harry,” I said, “Hand me your shoe.”
Harry continued lifting his foot toward his shoe. The higher he raised his leg, the further back he had to lean, moving his shoulder — and thus his hand — further from his foot. “Foot too far!” Harry wailed.
“Harry,” I put my hand on his shoulder and repeated. “Hand me your shoe.” Harry stood and gave me his shoe. “Thank you,” I said. “Now, hand me the other one.” Harry leaned over the bench again and reclaimed his second shoe. He gave it to me. I placed the shoes on the floor side-by-side. “Okay, now you can put them on.”
Harry stepped into his shoes and grinned up at me. “Thank you!” He said.
I told him he was welcome and directed him to pick up his food tray. He looked around and realized where we were. He also noticed that his classmates were gone. “Where frienz?” He exclaimed, startled.
“You were too slow.” I said. “They left us.”
“Hurry!” He admonished! We hustled across the cafeteria, dumped his tray, then walked to the big double doors. I opened the door and Harry stepped outside. This is were we usually line the kids up and count them before returning to class. Harry looked left and right. He turned to me and demanded again, “Where frienz?”
“You took too long with your shoes.” I said. “They left us. They’re probably already watching Sesame Street.”
Harry turned his whole body and stared down the sidewalk to the left. Then he turned his whole body and looked down the sidewalk to his right. Finally, hands on hips, he turned to face me and said, “Well shjt!”