Because I’ve set strict boundaries, my lovely housekeeper was opening a package addressed to me – with my daughter nearby – when I came into the kitchen. As my housekeeper pulled a glass out from the box, I muttered that the friend (she goes by the pseudonym Elinor on this blog) who’d sent the early birthday present mentioned that they – cocktail glasses, surprise – might be inappropriate to open near the children. Upon hearing this, my daughter immediately stuck to me like glue as I opened the rest of my present – my housekeeper standing at the ready to enjoy any wacky reactions that might result. The three of us uncovered other glasses… positive messages appeared… ‘The Judge of Me is Me’, ‘I am Worthy’, ‘Gratitude is my Attitude’, ‘The Galaxy has my Back’, and ‘Own Your Awesome’.
‘Let that Shit Go’ “Oh, I see what’s inappropriate,” my young one said. The last glass out of the box said, ‘Fuck the Shoulds, Do the Wants’.
All three of us laughed.
“I know not to use those words, mother,” my daughter said before I could remind of her of this.
The end of the school year is filled with so many ceremonial shoulds that even potty-mouthed-moi runs low on expletives to react appropriately to all of them. I want to run away and now appreciate the wisdom of another close friend who opted out of the last three days of school by taking her family to Italy. Tuscany in June 2016 sounds perfect…. But, she did just email me to say she and her family missed seeing graduation. Are there shoulds that we want to do?
We looked at the glasses, had a chuckle and then, as promised, I took my daughter to CVS to get Gobstoppers for her to give to her classmates for graduation – sure to endear my daughter to her peers and earn me the ire of their parents. When we returned to the house, I poured myself a stiff drink in the newly washed ‘fuck’ cup. I am the judge of me – not the parents whose children will come to them on a (sugar) high – and I’m sure all of us agree that my judgment is wanting on a variety of levels, but I digress.
Yes, I had a stiff drink on a school night – my attitude of gratitude for wine and its cousin, gin knows few bounds – the final one of the year because May and June are one long ceremony-filled marathon, making 41 days feel like a 1,000.
My carnival co-chairs and I were so daunted by our social schedules that we gave our ‘production heads’ gifts and notes in lieu of the original ‘Thank you’ party we’d planned. We thought it kinder to our families, the volunteers and ourselves, too, because every elementary school parents’ calendar is over whelming at the end of a school year.
Each grade has its students perform something for which they’ve rehearsed – usually only after a parent badgers them to do so – which requires those who have ‘gently reminded’ their children ad nauseam – to trek to school and applaud the result regardless of its quality so that they feel themselves worthy. If you have more than one kid… well just think of the school as your home-away-from-home in May and June.
And accept that school will rule your social calendar and add to your errand list too. There are the end of year parties, the group gifts for retiring teachers, the end of school conferences and then the big ceremony – the closing exercises.
It drizzled on graduation day – it felt like the start of an East Coast storm, warm, humid and rainy-esque – just enough water to make Drybar’s work moot, but not enough to put a dent in the drought. Which reminds me of a drought-related question. If for too long, you let it mellow when it’s yellow, only flushing it down when it is brown… are your net water savings nominal due to the plunging and repeated flushing required by the amount of toilet paper that builds up while yellow mellows? I am not particularly worthy with a plunger – my attitude of gratitude toward my housekeeper overflows when my toilet does. I grew up in a NYC apartment with a superintendent, no drought and normal flow toilets, I would like to remind you. And, yes, I am being defensive. But seriously, am I committing olfactory crimes for nothing?
Although the graduation is primarily about the Eighth graders who are moving on to new schools, the whole community participates. For two hours there were a lot of 13- and 14-year-olds who owned their own awesome. There were songs and speeches – and a lot of love.
The Head of School, as he magically does every year, writes a rhyming tribute to the class in which he manages to work in all of the graduates’ names and genuine praise. On the way to the verdant arch each graduate walks through before getting on the stage, there are teachers lined up to hug the kids. The Lower School Principal stands with each of them, smiling as a photographer captures the moment. She then sends them on their way to the stage and their future. The rhyming Principal and the Head of the Board of Trustees shake each graduate’s hand, and then a final moment at the school is captured when each graduate, their diploma and the Principal pose for one last photo.
After all of the diplomas were handed out, the Eighth grade girls sang a song through their tears then hugged each other tightly, long limbs, dresses and hair entangled in the intensity of emotion that only adolescent girls can muster.
The year-end performances in front of audiences – whether spoken or sung – or lip-synced, quite possible in my family’s case – made these kids more comfortable presenting themselves publicly, which is an invaluable life skill. Whether you plan to speak to classrooms, boardrooms, audiences, juries or anywhere. In truth, most of the performances were blessedly short and sweet.
At the end of graduation, doves were released into the air. The bright, white birds soared and circled above us marking the class of 2015 as alumni. Joyful people swarmed the field, looking for their relatives, snapping pictures and making future plans for lunch and beyond.
It made me glad to be on that damp meadow and willing to forgo Tuscany in June for at least the next seven years where I will be on the same field – because I will want to be where I should be, at graduation.