Dot is the crossing guard at my son’s elementary school.
She’s been the crossing guard for our elementary school children for decades, and knows the birthday and name of every one of the children who have ever crossed the main street where she works. Dot is originally from Newfoundland, and her playful roots are betrayed by her infectious hugs, exuberant laughter and always-interested eyes. Dot has captured the affections of both the children and parents in our small Maritime hamlet for many a moon.
On any given day you will see Dot standing in the middle of the street, arms stretched wide like a suffering but smiling messiah, and little cherubs bounding in front of her like baby chicks gleaming their mother as they pass by. They are unaware of the dangers she protects them from daily, but their confident strides give testimony to her able handling of her task.
As one line of children finishes their sojourn across the raging street, Dot hurries back toward the curb waving her sincere thanks to any drivers who are watching. She is grateful that we’ve paused in the midst of our busy mornings to honor her cherished ones. She takes no one for granted, nor encroaches on one’s time any more than she must.
Dot is town-famous for remembering the children’s names as they go through their school years, and finally graduate from high school. She asks parents on the street how their children are doing, and listens closely to their answers. If she feels as though an encouragement and attaboy is due, she offers it freely. If she has a bit of advice, though, she will offer it with all the kindness a grandmother could give.
One day, on another street in our small town, I was in a hurry. I looked both ways at a very small and lonely intersection, and began to cross the street. Dot happened to be coming up the other side of the street, but I didn’t see her there. Midway through my tiny journey, I looked up to see that the little red hand was still lit on the crosswalk sign. I hustled my way to the adjacent corner, and looked down into Dot’s curious eyes. I knew that I was in for a whole can of pure, homegrown, Newfoundland whatfor.
“Why did you cross the street when the sign was red?” Dot asked me with an innocent smile. I stumbled for words, as they caught in my throat and found their way to the surface with th same tone they used to in the presence of my querying mother.
“There were no cars coming, Dot,” I exclaimed, half speaking with playful knowingness, and half intoned with embarrassed shame. She had caught me with my hand in the cookie jar. Her face grew serious, and her eyes grew thin. She leaned toward me as if tell me a secret, and I intuitively leaned down to listen – turning my eyes from her strong look.
“If you do it, your children will do it. They don’t know any better; they’re too young.” She leaned back, and I straightened up. We exchanged smiles – hers the fiesty grin of a mother who feels no need to remedy that you are embarrassed, and mine the shy grin of a child who just got off a big hook with only a slight punishment.
Then, just the other day, I was driving with my wife, and needed to turn left into a parking lot to turn around. Dot happened to be crossing where I was needing to turn, and I tried to wave her through first. She wouldn’t budge. She waved me in, with her telltale smile. We passed by her, with more smiles and waves. She looked both ways, and began to cross behind us.
Then, I realized that I was in a one-way lane. For me to turn around the way I had intended would mean that I would have to continue in my illegal journey, and upon my successful about-face, to then face Dot again, crossing the other lane toward which she was now walking.
I looked at my wife. “I’m backing up and turning around, Hon.” “Why?” my wife said. “Just keep going. There’s no one coming.” “You don’t understand,” I said. “Dot will see me going the wrong way in this lane.” She gave me a knowing look, kind of like my hand was caught again in the jar of sweet carbohydrates.
“I just can’t let Dot see me doing the wrong thing,” I said. “In fact, I’d rather not do the wrong thing at all. The children might see me, and they don’t know any better.”