Graduation

 

I told the kids come June they’d suffer for all those snow closings and delays this past winter. I also told them that when I was a kid we walked to school in snow. Piles and piles of it. Blizzards even. Barefoot. None of that was true. I did not walk in blizzards barefoot. There may have been slush, but not six foot drifts.

And they are not suffering. Not even close. Yes, school’s been extended into summer to make up for those days spent sledding. Mid-June, their days are spent in the classroom rather than in the backyard climbing trees. They don’t care. Friday I found out why. I’d been invited to an authors’ tea by the third grade. I had no idea what to expect. I asked if I should dress up, which got a laugh from my nine year old. Apparently not. I put my gloves back in the drawer. In the end there were no dainty tea cups or diminutive sandwiches anyway. The authors’ tea featured punch and cookies while the kids took turns reading books they’d written aloud. This is how we spent the morning. I stayed for lunch, which I ate surrounded by giggling girls doing one another’s hair. I saw the fifth grade teachers carrying out tubs of Italian ice for their class party. The rest of the school picnicked under trees with their parents. I passed out chocolate bars to the girls and we went to the playground. They are not suffering. This is one long party. I’m glad.

Flash back to Thursday night’s fifth grade graduation. Belatedly my fifth grader remembered there was a dress code. (Boys!) Everyone scrambled to change into something nicer or even just cleaner and I phoned a friend for advice. Two of her children had already been down this road and a third would give the official welcome that night. The welcomer answered with a “hey”. I asked what he was wearing, thinking to make a joke about it, but he surprised me with “a blazer”. A what? A sport coat? “Mom got me a flower to go on it.” A boutonniere??  I was seriously underdressed. My daughter, who knows everything about everyone, informed me then that a certain fifth grade girl (she of the sun-gold hair and pink sweaters – ah, poetic puberty) had gotten flowers and that all of the graduates were getting gifts. This is fifth grade! We didn’t have grand graduation ceremonies in fifth grade and we certainly didn’t get gifts. We got beat if we DIDN’T graduate to the sixth grade, that’s what we got! I considered telling my children this, then thought better of it. My humor is sometimes lost on them.

Instead I rummaged through my son’s room. He’s allergic to nice clothes, but I knew he had some. If you’ve ever broken an arm you know what I’m saying here: Everyone needs at least one button down shirt. This boy has broken his arm twice. I knew those shirts were in there. I came out waving a pale green dress shirt and matching tie triumphantly. He crossed his arms and set his jaw. Wrestling him to the floor and forcing him into the shirt was a momentary possibility, but I’d spent too much time doing my hair. We compromised. A short sleeve shirt – tucked in. Black trousers – with sneakers. I added a belt, he refused socks. It was a really nice belt though. Worth the loss of the socks. At the last second the phone rang. Could we bring an extra shirt with us? I guessed it was for some underdressed child and we’d never see it again. My son eyed the green shirt and tie. He’s generous.

And then we were sitting in the auditorium. There were speeches and award presentations. They went on forever. Yes, my friends’ children and even my own son gave speeches and were presented awards. You know what I mean though. It went on f o r e v e r.  At the end was a slide show the teachers had put together. A baby picture would appear on the screen, then a photo of a chubby toddler, a toothless grinning six year old, and finally a current picture along with the student’s name. The graduates loved it. As soon as they could guess, they shouted out the names to go with the faces. “Phil!” “Kimmie!” “Tommy!” I had tears welling up long before the image of my sweet little six month old boy in red overalls appeared. I was reminded that this whole production, which I’d thought overkill on a grand scale, was for them. They deserved it. And it would not go on forever. It would go on for a few moments of my life and then they’d be gone. The baby in red overalls became a toddler in nothing but a diaper and cowboy boots riding a stick horse, then a blonde boy rolled on the ground laughing with a big yellow dog and I couldn’t tell them apart by sight or smell. There were turtles and toads in buckets on my back step and pockets filled with marbles and rocks and BBs. He’s discovered where the lost teeth he put under his pillow went. He plays chess. He questions my logic. It won’t go on forever.