Dad bids farewell to Play Day

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Not even a week of rain could dampen the spirits of elementary school children who gleefully ran races Friday on a grassy field behind Alma Schrader Elementary School.

It was Play Day, an annual springtime affair that gets the students out of class and provides a visible sign that the school year is almost over.

And it's not just the kids and teachers that love Play Day. Parents turn out, too. They help run the carnival-like games and run the concession stands.

Other parents show up just to watch.

On Play Day, the streets around the school resemble a parking lot. Some parents stay all day. Those that show up later have to park several blocks away.

The recent wet weather made the low-lying field a muddy swamp. But that didn't bother the kids in their pursuit of first-place ribbons.

Bailey brought along a large beach towel to sit on. But she did little sitting because it didn't take long for the towel to get dirty.

I managed to squeeze in a visit to Play Day around my lunch hour, getting a huge hug from Bailey for my effort.

I had to work, but I couldn't resist seeing some of the festivities like the ever-popular cake walk.

This low-tech affair remains popular with the students because they win tasty treats. Nobody, it seems, goes away hungry.

Many of the students stopped by a booth to have their hair colored orange, green or some other bright color.

Bailey came away with her hair colored half orange, half green. She looked like she'd just been to a hairdressers convention, as did most of her classmates.

This year's Play Day included a magic show and the ever-popular "store" -- set up in the cafeteria -- where kids spent the "Tiger dollars" purchased by their parents.

The merchandise didn't really matter. For the students, it was the shopping itself that was fun.

Out on the field, the muddiest spots seemed reserved for the fourth-grade classes.

Perhaps that was appropriate. After all, the fourth graders are the upper classmen at this school. They should know how to avoid the mud. Of course, knowing it and doing it are two different things.

Watching the festivities made me a little sad because I realized that this would be my last Play Day at the elementary school.

Bailey will move up to the middle school next year. That will be a big change for our family.

My wife, Joni, and I have been chauffeuring one or both of our daughters to the elementary school for the past decade.

First it was Becca, then Becca and Bailey, and more recently just Bailey who we hauled to and from the school. We attended school choir presentations and Parents' Day and Girl Scout meetings.

Joni and I got to know the school nurse who took good care of our children when they were sick. Students at the school affectionately refer to her as "nursey."

We regularly greeted our children's current and former teachers during our many trips to the school. We waved to the safety patrol students.

I'll miss all of that and more when the school year comes to an end next week.

This time, it will be a true farewell.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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