School Days and Preschool Days, Too:
A treasury of anecdotes culled from my work and play as a preschool worker and an elementary school after- school activities supervisor



     In the preschool play yard outside of Rooms 3, 4, and 5, we have somel big, plastic trucks: dump trucks, pickup trucks, bulldozers, backhoes, and a giant crane. The rule for playing with them is that the trucks have to stay on a sand "highway" that runs parallel to the sidewalk. The main reason for this rule is that running the trucks on the sidewalk wears out their tires.
      You really have to witness the dedication our play truckers have to this pastime, to believe it. Boys, and a few girls, run at full speed with their "18 wheelers", from one end of the track to the other, then turn around and go back.
      The play is serious, as serious as I would image real, long-distance truckers are about their work. The children rarely smile. It isn't that they're not having fun. They're just completely immersed in imaginative play. They're seeing themselves on the real highways they've driven with their parents and seen on TV.
      Trucks have a great mystique for many children, almost as great as dinosaurs. Both trucks and dinosaurs in fact, have huge bodies and enormous power that children can partake in through play.      More than once, after outdoor play has gotten underway and the usual toy truckers have taken all the available vehicles and are plying them down the sand highway, I've seen a forlorn boy whose glance is darting all around the play yard as he walks. Crossing my path, the fellow will look at me with a pitiable expression and mutter—reminding me a little of a strung-out junkie—"I need a truck!"
      The most extreme example I've seen of the power of big automotive machines as psychic images came as I asked the children at my lunch table one day, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
      Most of the boys and girls gave more or less expected answers: nurses, doctors, cowboys. But from one imaginative child came this simple, endearing response—"a car".
      Sometimes when someone goes barrelling mythically down our sand highway, I'll play the harmonica and affect a Johnny Cash accent, singing the child by name:
                          "Timothy was a truck-drivin' man.
                           He drove his truck all over the land.                           
                           Timothy was a truck-drivin' man."
      If the trucker is a girl, I'll sing:
                         " Leah was a truck-drivin' girl.
                           She drove her truck all over the world.
                           Leah was a truck-drivin' girl."     
      The children don't often acknowledge the music. They're too busy "truckin". But I know they appreciate it, because they've begun now to ask me to sing to them.
     Another way I've tried to join and aid the preschoolers while supervising the "truck lane" has been to place my scarf or my harmonica in the back, pickup section of a truck and ask the driver, "Will you please deliver this to Philadelphia?" Usually the child proceeds with the cargo in the back of the truck without comment or interruption.
      One day, though, when I asked a little boy named Jerry, "Will you deliver this harmonica to Chicago?" Jerry stopped what he was doing and dragged his truck over to me at the side of the road. Then, looking up at me with a serious, puzzled look, he said, "Mr. Max, I don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about!"
      It had never occurred to me that a child might not understand what "deliver" means, or what "Chicago" is. I felt utterly touched by Jerry's guileless question. I explained to him how trucks on the highway take groceries and many other things from one city to another, and how Chicago is a big city far, far away. Jerry nodded when I asked if he understood now that I had explained, and he pushed the truck, with its harmonica cargo, back onto the road, for the long haul to the Windy City.

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