The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Presenting the Class of 2016

Four-year-old Kass learns to ride a bike-without-training-wheels

Granddaughter Kass graduated this month from Eighth Grade. It was a warmup for what will happen in four years; she and her classmates were introduced at the end of the ceremonies as the Class of 2016.

It was a warmup for the show slated four years hence – a warning round over Mom’s pocketbook.

“She’s gonna go get her beauty on,” said Mom, as mother and daughter prepared to head out.

“I am,” she said. “I’m getting curls, and then I need to get my eyebrows done.”

And she just turned 14.

“Getting her beauty on,” it turned out, also required two new dresses – well, actually a dress and a gown, the latter for the “Eighth Grade Formal.”

I graduated from eighth grade, many years ago, but I attended a two-room school and lots of kids then, if they didn’t graduate eighth grade wouldn’t graduate at all. A large percentage of them would go back to the farm to raise food, or the woods to cut trees. But the time came when the powers that be decided everyone should go to high school, and then decided eighth-grade graduation was a waste of money. My offspring did not graduate until they finished high school; that had been awhile.

So there she was, just turned 14 and all dressed up, looking sharp.

She was two years old the day her grandma and I had our first date. Kass would deny being tired, insist she didn’t have to go to bed, and suddenly would run across the living room and be sound asleep by the time she bumped into my knees.

A few years later, she’d deny being tired, say she didn’t have to go to bed, then wrap a blanket around her, claiming she was a “cold,” and be asleep almost instantly.

We went to a circus and she got to ride the “el-da-dans,” and she sent me to the store for some “lellow” lotion. We watched a Punkin Chunkin’ competition, and when she was a little older she accompanied me to a few government meetings. I was there as a reporter; she as a kid with a coloring book, though a couple times she crawled in a corner and went to sleep. (For a few years, Kass and her Mom lived with us. Mom and Grandma worked where they couldn’t take the little one, so I, occasionally, got to take her with me.)

Kass hiked up Pole Steeple, a common destination in the area where I live. And she hiked into a forest to find the origin of a creek well known to residents in the valley.

At a Thanksgiving dinner, she not so quietly commented, “Here we go again,” as I started, without any pre-established form, to thank The Boss for the groceries and the family to share them. And at breakfast one morning she refused to try maple syrup boiled from tree sap; she wanted the “real stuff,” in the bottle shaped like a lady cook in the kitchen.

Her little brain was on screech all the time, figuring such logistics as how, when she was barely tall enough to reach the counter, to get her own juice glass from the kitchen cabinet, and juice from the fridge, and how far she could push each adult in her life before she’d be in trouble for doing something she was told not to, or for not doing something she’d been assigned.

Kass loved to make books, scribbling on multiple sheets of previously clean paper, then stapling them together. Later she began writing reports about things she’d seen and done; two of them made it into the local newspaper.

She thought for awhile she wanted to be a nurse, like her grandma, who, Kass once told another nurse, “helped people get better.”

The last time I asked, she wanted to become a marine biologist. But she’s only 14 – already. She earns As and Bs, reads voraciously books without pictures as well as what she calls “graphic novels.” (My mom would call them comic books, but I have to admit they are more than that – and I’ll deny in the strongest possible terms that I said that.) And the child her mom calls “my angel from Heaven” sings like her mom is absolutely correct.

Class of 2016.

Last week, it seems, she’d just turned four and burst into the house shouting, “Come see me ride my bike-without-training-wheels.”

She had been trying to learn that for weeks.

Next week, she wants to learn to drive a car.

They just don’t make weeks like they used to.


  1. Great story, John. My oldest great-grand just transitioned from Head Start to Kindergarten. Just last week his grandma started Kindergarten. People older and wiser than I told me time would go faster as I grew older. Of course, I didn’t believe them. Silly me.

    • John

      June 21, 2012 at 08:58

      It does go faster. I think it has something to do with perspective from percentage of our lives. The longer we live, the shorter a day is. Or something like that.

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