Thursday, April 13, 2017

Memory - Safety Tom

When I was in elementary school (6th grade maybe?) I wore one of these Safety Badges, along with the white webbing sash/belt - for about 2 days. The other kids hated the Safetys because we were their friends and "Not the boss of me!" It felt ridiculous to stop traffic because we didn't have any really young kids on the route that needed help and we all were going home to play in the middle of the street anyway. (Car! Car!! CAR!!!) I handed in my belt with a "Thanks, but no thanks".

There was a kid named Tom who took over. We teased him terribly for his high-water trousers, thick glasses, and button-tight shirts straight out of the 1950's. He stoically endured our taunts, staring straight ahead and tucking in his chin with the most determination I have ever seen before or since. But man oh man, Tom had the Safety Arm Spread down to a science and I swear the cars would stop just because he willed them to. He was Safety legend.

Tom also played the piano like a dream - we were in the school orchestra together (I played cello) - and with the same fierce determination he used to deflect 2 tons of metal from plowing through our tiny grade school bodies. While the rest of us sawed and bleated our way through barely recognizable Bach, he held us together with his piano, chin tucked in, glasses sliding down his nose, top button straining, but never flying loose. He had our backs, and with his musical safety net, we navigated the score without suffering any orchestral tragedies.

After I moved away, I wrote him a letter apologizing for being so rotten to him and hoping he never stopped playing. I don't know if he ever got it, or if it made any difference. I hope so. Through a little internet sleuthing I know he went on to get married and become a well-liked minister and that he still plays piano and organ, so I take comfort in knowing his life went on after grade school.

Thanks for looking out for us, Tom. We need more Safetys like you.