The rejuvenating effect of more kids | Rockin’ a Hard Place

I was happy to see that enrollment in Coupeville’s public schools is on the rise after steadily declining for the past decade. The town’s been feeling a bit arthritic and it needs a burst of youthful energy. We can use more kick-ball screaming and jump-rope rhyming; hopefully that will help drown out the clatter of so many canes and walkers.

I was especially encouraged that the number of kindergartners has risen so much a third class has been added and another teacher hired. It’s reassuring for us fogeys that so many future wage earners are on their way to prop up Social Security and Medicare.

For years, the Rock has been an attractive place for people to retire. Great natural beauty, friendly people, affordable housing. A place to pursue stuff you never had time for when you had a full-time job and bills to pay. The time, for instance, to spend hours with friends over a cup of coffee, disagreeing agreeably about almost everything. Or paying the incredibly cheap senior rate of just five bucks to see a great movie at The Clyde in Langley.  (And it’s even better when it’s a matinee that doesn’t require a terrifying drive home after dark).

But it’s been tougher here for people who still work — especially the parents of those kids in the schools. Not enough jobs, at least not enough that pay well. That may be a big reason school enrollment has been falling for so long. But now the economy feels healthier. Parents of some of our new kids are likely to be coming in with the Navy or related civilian defense contractors. Others may be telecommuting — working at home two days, taking the ferry to Seattle three days. Still others may be working for one of our local businesses, most of which are doing much better these days.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad we’ve got more young people running around this Rock. Life in this historic place could use a refresher. It takes some getting used to, however, when you’re not used to the sights and sounds of young people today. Cross-generational exchanges can be very confusing or even scary if your usual social discourse consists of chatting with people over 50 who talk mostly about their aches and pains.

The other day I made a trip to the Red Apple in Prairie Center for milk and a loaf of bread. It was around 3 p.m. and Coupeville High had just let out.  Backpacks crowded the store entrance. Two girls, one with purple-streaked hair, the other with green streaks, were guzzling cans of Red Bull and talking about Taylor Swift.

I meekly made my way around them and pushed forward into the store. Lines of young people were impatiently waiting to pay for armloads of Doritos, Ho-Ho’s, chocolate Donettes, Twinkies, fried pork rinds, teriyaki jerky and other junk specialties my cholesterol count forced me to give up years ago.

Some blotted out their surroundings by listening to music I don’t relate to with their earbuds plugged into their cell phones. Others wore pants that somehow hung below the part of the body that normally holds them up. It made me wonder how gravity could be defied this way.

And there I stood, embarrassingly waiting to buy a quart of milk and a loaf of bread. How old I felt! How out of touch! Had I been abducted by aliens?

But then I realized this is how life is supposed to be — young people, less-young people, not-so-old people and actually old people, all hanging out together. Hopefully learning from each other. Yes, indeed. Let’s keep the school enrollment growing!