“I’m Just Saying” is a column by Suburbs 101 Contributor, Alexis Gold. A funny and brutally honest take on what life is like for a working mom in New York City/turned unexpected stay at home suburban mom. This month, Alexis bids farewell to the school pick-up line.
Pick up line takes on a whole new meaning when you’re 47 and have been married for nearly two decades. No one tells me I look like an angel and anything about the stars, or whatever. Not that anyone ever did. But at this stage of life, pick-up is all about school. And, anyone who knows me, knows that I have worn my six-years on the car pick-up line at our elementary school like a badge of honor.
What’s funny is that the two things I hate most in life are lines and taxes. Making school lunch is pretty high up there as well. But, I will do anything to avoid a line – so much so that my husband has been known to pretend he doesn’t know me when I start into some poor unsuspecting soul who could help me jump ahead a spot. I invented the chat and cut long before Larry David. And, I never met a membership I wouldn’t buy if it came with a special entrance. I would pay a billion dollars to avoid a line at the DMV. My best trick is just effective planning. Arrive at 11:43 for brunch, since noon is standard and anyone who THINKS they’ll be smart and early chooses 10 minutes or a standard 11:45. Vote at 8:53pm since any actually responsible person would go well before the polls close. Conversely, I have been too lazy to ever set up my TSA Pre-Check. This drives my husband crazy, so either it’s a form of marriage airport chicken or I am just a series of contradictions.
And, with that in mind, here is my love letter and farewell to my favorite place – the car pick up line. The place where I am a staple, and the one place I am sure I fit in every day; it’s certainly not into my clothes. A place that, if I have averaged 30 minutes a day since 2015 (less work days and three months of remote last year), I calculate I have spent 450 waking hours. That is 18.75 24-hour days. It is the one line I have learned to anticipate and appreciate.
Most people wouldn’t dream of spending nearly three weeks of any life sitting in a parked car, alone, by choice. Especially a line hater. But, for me, this space and time has been glorious. It is a place with unwritten, logical rules – park behind the car in front of you, don’t cut anyone. Otherwise you risk life-long small-village alienation. But, it’s more than that. My friend was talking about re-starting her daily commute, and how she’s loving the time to catch up on, well, nothing, anything and everything. It’s like kindergarten “choice time” for grown-ups. And, that’s
what car pick-up has been for me – the only 30 minutes of my day, since the day I had children, that have been carved out for [choose your own boring adventure]. I can call my best friend in Santa Barbara, sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” at the top of my lungs, return texts, watch Netflix and chill… These days, I mostly write reimbursements for the PTA. But, that’s a separate essay.
At our school, car pick-up is reserved for grades K-2. My twins are, sadly, headed to 3rd grade next year. I did everything I could to prolong this transition, even adding a super suburban redshirt option, given their late summer birthdays. I wonder whether I subconsciously had them complete an extra year of nursery school just for my extra time in car line — an additional 90 hours, if you’re calculating. But, let’s be honest, it was probably more for the edge in sports. My son is currently a Fortnite expert. I envy my friends with four kids that spaced them out. Three
kids in two year was piss poor car line planning.
My fifth grader is headed to middle school, and bid adieu to the car line-world some time ago. But, the little known loophole to the K-2 rule, is that you can still have your car line-graduated kids slip through your Honda Odyssey’s doors if you are picking up your younger ones. Score one for me.
My more social friends go to the walking line, or meet their kids at the flagpole. One good friend likened it to waiting in line for a night-club in our 20s. And, I love you dear friend, but I hope this club has a massively underpriced lease.They walk by with their hair combed, and in cute Jack Rogers. Probably even earrings. But not me, I can proudly say I have not updated my Dismissal Manager to reflect that we’d be walking home on even one single day this year. And, my wardrobe reflects it. But, I get to speak to no one in the 3D world. It’s my zen. Many people do
wave to me, and if something particularly exciting is happening they might stop at my window…or in the cold of winter hop into my heated seats. Yep, they even have ‘em in my 2012 minivan. But, for the most part it’s just me, myself and I.
They know me on the car line. Like when your local coffee shop knows your order. So warm and fuzzy. I no longer need to display the bright yellow sign with my kids’ names and teachers on my dashboard. I am a regular. The wonderful car line workers hold up a hand with two fingers, with a questioning look. More than 90% of the time I signal back with the same gesture. If some kind parent has offered to have my child over and get them in the line of parents that love their children more, proving it by standing outside in the bitter cold in a puffy jacket, I hold up one
finger and name the child I am getting. All from inside my car with the window closed. They can even read lips! I love these people that have found my children every day and safely brought them one step closer to home. I will miss them.
My relationship with car line has been indirect. The longer I’ve been on it, the less daily time I’ve waited. My 40 minutes has turned 30 and some days 20 over this last year. I used to turn up earlier not just because I liked sitting outside, but because I was a better and more competitive parent. I wanted to be first. But those days are over, and I’ve learned that’s a race I don’t need to win. Builds grit. So, maybe it’s a sign that I have also graduated. Maybe our school is also schooling me.
And, here we are. I have exactly 18 days left. I should be more nostalgic about elementary school moving up, or everyone getting older, but what I am lamenting is my loss of car line. For those easier days when my oldest jumped in the car with half her teeth, immediately pulling her daily pony tail holder out of her hair (you know, lice, lice, baby) while explaining how she conquered the monkey bars or accidentally hit someone at recess. I believe her. I don’t believe my son when he tells me he accidentally spit at his sister, since an accidental spit is impossible. But, I am glad he told me and chose his twin sister who didn’t rat him out until they hopped in the car. I wonder if I’ll hear those forgotten stories next year when I am no longer doing pick-up.
I will miss this line, and dare I say it, this phase of life. To all my car line friends, near and far, do an extra lap for me. And remember to tip the people working that line. I won’t be around to do it. Thanks to all the men and women who made this possible for the last six years, you’re so beautiful you made me forget my pick-up line. Maybe next year they’ll sell extended memberships to the car line to raise money for the PTA. I buy. And, I will wait on the car line the
longest – but I will figure out a race to the front of said line to purchase this imaginary membership. Farewell, old friend.
About Alexis Gold
Alexis Gold holds a BS from Cornell University. She spent more than two decades on Wall Street, where she was a top ranked analyst by Institutional Investor. While on the buy side her creative writing was used to analyze companies, primarily in the retail space. Following the recent closing of her last fund, she decided to stay at home with her three small children. Her writing has been featured in Read650 and offers a funny and brutally honest take on what life is like for a working mom in NYC/turned unexpected stay at home suburban mom.
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