Monday, June 7, 2010
It’s the usual end of school year stuff. Field days and class picnics. Permission slips constantly stacked on the kitchen table, waiting for a quick signature and a couple of bucks. This year it’s been crazier than usual. Graduation requirements and activities seem to dominate the calendar.
We’ve made it through one big event - Senior Prom. My girl had a blast and returned home safely so I’d have to say it was a huge success. She surrounded herself with great friends, wore a beautiful dress she already owned (boy, did I get off easily on that one) and spent the afternoon before the dance getting ready with a handful of pals.
Once the transformations were complete, the whole gang met up at a town park and the pack of moms took way too many pictures. “Let’s have you all turn this way…okay, not that way…okay, now just the girls…okay, now everyone over by the tree…”
Next on the schedule was the big walk through at the high school. This is a brand new concept to our family. I first heard about it when my daughter went to senior prom a few years ago with a boyfriend. “A walk through? What’s a walk through?” I kept asking my girl. We’ve lived in four states since we’ve had kids in school and I’d never heard of such a thing.
What everyone from this area knows is that a walk through is the chance for parents to come to the high school and watch every single couple walk across the auditorium stage in their fancy outfits. Parents play the paparazzi and take a zillion more pictures. When it’s all over, the kids climb into cars and drive across town for the real dance.
I was very confused by this tradition when my daughter attended with her boyfriend a few years ago and hadn’t come much closer to figuring it out now that it was her official prom. Then someone at work explained it in a different way and it made a lot more sense.
“It’s a chance to see all those kids, all those friends your kid has had since kindergarten, now all grown up. Some of them you haven’t seen since elementary school and it’s so fun to see how much they’ve matured in high school!”
Well, well, well. That made more sense.
If we’d lived here for the last twelve years, this would have been a very different experience. For me and for my daughter. But we haven’t. We moved here just as she was starting high school. I didn’t know most of those kids who were crossing the stage on prom night. I knew only the handful of kids I’ve slowly come to meet in the past four years. Most of them were at the town park and I’d already taken their pictures. The others are older and younger than my daughter, not seniors, and not involved in this night. It was suddenly very clear to me.
This is what happens when your life choices mean your children attend several schools in their educational careers. There are always new traditions to figure out and new friends to make. Our oldest three have experienced four different school systems, in four different states. Hopefully all three will finish out their school days by walking across the graduation stage at Columbia High School.
Sam is our only child who has a chance to have the full, one school system experience. He started his kindergarten year right down the road from this house, just weeks after we’d moved to New York. So far it has been fun watching him grow up and travel through the ranks at Genet Elementary.
Last week I was on the bleachers behind his school, waiting to see him run his race on field day. He practices for months to run this one event. When big brothers are doing laps for high school track practice, their little brother is in his own training mode, preparing for the closest thing he has to a track meet so far.
I found myself taking more than the usual two dozen pictures. I snapped some of his whole class, standing in a row, waiting their turn on the field. I took some of his classmates, receiving their ribbons and sitting on the sidelines cheering for their friends on the field. It was a conscious choice. Documenting these children, these kids he shares a classroom with each year, knowing that someday I might have a chance to see them all grown up.
There’s a good chance Sam will be in the East Greenbush School District for all twelve years of school. Before he up and moves back to Utah to go to college (he’s made all the plans already) he too will walk across the Columbia stage and receive a diploma. A few weeks before that, he’ll get all dressed up and go to prom. And you can bet I’ll be in that parent audience when walk throughs go down that night.
Because I’ll finally get it. I’ll have the faces of those tall grown up kids seared into my brain as sweet little seven and eight year olds. I’ll have field day pictures from 2008, and 2009, and 2010 to prove it. It will be another season of craziness, getting our last child through the graduation machine.
But it will be a totally different experience.