On sunny late fall days at school, as the aftercare kids busy themselves with fort business, or whittling, or a tag game on the playground, someone invariably pauses, points up, and cries, “TV!” And sure enough, there they are, circling in the late afternoon thermals on the pale blue screen of the sky above us. We watch, we count, we speculate as to why they are there and how long they might stay, or what they might be sensing. The TV’s command attention, and then they sail away.
It is one of the first acronyms that kids learn in science, when we are taking a walk outside and I suddenly say, “Let’s watch TV!” They pause, puzzled. Some cheer, thinking that we will be going inside to see SpongeBob or whatever it is that kids like to watch these days. “Look up!” I tell them, and then they spot the enormous wings sailing overhead, the heads bent low, the effortless gliding grace. “It’s just a vulture,” one student will usually inform me, and I will add, emphasizing the sounds,”But it’s a Turkey Vulture. Here we are, outside, watching TV!” Then we will sit or lie down and spend the next few minutes watching TV, noting how they will tip to one side, then right themselves, how they seem to have fingers that help steer, speculating what dead thing they might be looking for, are are they just having fun up there, looking down at us?
I have seen kids get into their car at carpool and announce to their baffled parents that they watched TV during aftercare. I smile, nod, close the car door. Let them wonder.