I get cynical, and too often I use humor and sarcasm to create a crispy shell and hide my feelings. Sometimes it's to hide fears and pain, and other times it's a (misguided) attempt to be cool, but the truth of the matter is that on the inside I'm a big ball of mush. Don't get me wrong, I'm not all flowery rainbows and pink butterflies or anything, but certain things catch me just the right way and make me break out into a dumb goofy grin.
Such was the case today, His Highness's last day of kindergarten. I started the day wanting to take photographs of His Highness entering the school as a kindergartener and coming out a first-grader, but he put the kibosh on my whole idea. He actually had the nerve to say "Don't even think about taking my picture, Mom" (he's in an entirely aggravating anti-paparazzi phase). So I didn't get the photos I was hoping for.
The younger two and I spent a whirlwind afternoon running errands (ie, hunting down a nifty pair of aqua-colored shorts I really wanted) and buying groceries, and made it to the school with what would normally have been 10 minutes to spare. But as we drove into the parking lot, I saw bunches of kids heading for the buses and I thought, "Hmmm, I guess they let out a little early on the last day."
Now usually when I drive over for dismissal, I wait in the (parked) car until the buses leave, so that it's a quick and clear shot over to the doors to pick up His Highness as he exits with what I call the Parade of walkers. The Parade moves in an orderly fashion toward the crossing guard, which is in the opposite direction of our house, so I have to pick him out of line if I don't want to hike all the way over there and back.
Today however, as the buses cleared I saw the above scene--the entire front curb lined with children and teachers and school staff, waving to the kids on the buses as they pulled away. If you click the pic to enlarge, you can see on the left the orange signs held up--the media staff spelled out "R-E-A-D" as a reminder for the summer, and there was music playing as everyone waved and, back by the doors, teachers danced. I assume that more would have been dancing had they not been holding umbrellas and wrangling littles and whatnot, but there you have it.
I got out of the car and waited, as usual, to allow the buses to clear. They were going slower than normal, allowing everyone to really take in and enjoy this moment of triumph. And they kept coming, and I thought "Um, how did we get this many more buses than normal?" until it dawned on me that they had done an extra lap around the bus loop. No matter where they started, every kid on every bus had the opportunity to go through that whole line of waving, cheering teachers and kids. Everyone had the chance to say "Have a good summer!" and "See you next year!" or "Good luck in middle school!" or simply "Good bye!"
Most of the kids crowded on the side toward the curb, but a few stuck their arms out and waved toward me, and I waved back as if I'd just spotted a bus driving by with all my favorite people inside, along with celebrities and maybe Jesus himself, and before I knew it my cheeks hurt because my smile was so wide. I stood there, in the rain with no umbrella, wondering at the moment.
I (almost) always enjoyed school, and I loved my teaching years, and I still love most anything school-related. And while I try to be careful to let His Highness have his own school experiences, I delight in the memories they bring back for me, and I love it when I get the chance to share them with him.
I do get cynical sometimes about all the friggin' extras. Parties and treats, and all the dang Oriental Trading Company bits that weasel their way into my home (and within days, my trash can), and this gift and that fundraiser, and collecting these things, signing those papers, and "Mom, we're supposed to wear mixed indigo fibers for National Hug-A-Basket-Weaver Day," and so on. Half of me loves the care and experiences these kids get, and the other half simultaneously wants to spit from exhaustion.
But something about this was just right to me. They did it, every single one. From the principal to the bus drivers, to the biggest fifth-grader to the littlest kindergartener--everyone had reason to celebrate a job well done, and what better way to congratulate each other than this? No money spent, or trinkets handed out, or junk food wolfed down (that came after we got home). Just this year's school family, all together one last time for a grand send-off.
Soon enough the buses pulled out of the lot and onto their routes. I grabbed His Highness and got to thank his teacher one last time for all her work. I got to yell a thank-you to the principal (hopefully the assistant principal didn't feel excluded, but it would've been too awkward to try and yell at them both). And for this time, we got to say "See you next year."
And tomorrow we will be onto summery things. There are swimming lessons to take, and the library to visit, and summer "homework," which we'll probably do for about a week before we throw our hands up and cave to the summer regression. But for today, he had an important lesson in feeling it all--the excitement and the sadness and all the other parts of leaving well.
Well done, Mill Run. Well done, indeed...