His name was Michael. I don’t remember much about him aside from the fact that he had wavy blonde hair, eyes as blue as the summer sky, and he looked at me a lot. He was also very shy. He could always be seen working quietly at his desk.
We were in Mrs. Tracy’s class, and mornings were quite predictable. We’d play for a while, the bell would ring, and we’d form a line in front of our classroom, waiting for her let us in. It was like that every day.
But today was different. Another adult led us into our room. As we put our coats away and sat at our desks, Mrs. Tracy came in from the hallway. Her eyes were red, and an ominous silence began to fill every corner of our classroom.
Stoically she stood in front of our classroom, and in a shaky voice informed us that Michael and some friends had been riding their bikes in the school parking lot over the weekend. There had been an accident, and Michael would not be returning to school — not just today, but never.
I don’t remember anyone asking any questions. I think we were just too young to understand. All we knew was that we would never see our Michael again.
The days dragged along, painfully slow at first, then faster as our minds were filled with thoughts of what third-graders think of: homework, holidays and time with our families. Michael would miss all of that. He would miss lots of things.
Michael would not enjoy the hot, fun-filled days of summers to come. He would not attend junior high, high school, and then graduate with his classmates. He would never get a summer job, enjoy family picnics and then one day bring a child of his own into this world — one who would giggle endlessly as she is bounced on her grandfather’s knee. There would be no more Michael.
How long has it been? Twenty, 30, maybe 40 years? It seems like a lifetime ago. I think of Michael every now and then and have always hoped he had brothers or sisters. I hate to think that his parents’ lives ended when his did.
The school and its parking lot have long been converted into rows and rows of apartment buildings. The children who once filled the playground have grown up and have children of their own, and I hear that the sleepy little town is now quite a busy place — one I wouldn’t recognize if I went there again.
Hug your children tonight and show them you love them; laugh at their silly jokes — even if they make no sense at all. Admire their scribbles, then display them proudly in a place of honor, like the others on the refrigerator door. Make good memories — lots of them.
— Louise López-Garner lives in White City.