School's (Almost) Out

And I'm still just getting on the bus...

Max has been getting invitations to graduation parties and studying for finals. Sean is already looking ahead to summer pole vaulting camp and being able to park in the senior lot next year. And as I said goodbye to Libby yesterday, I wished her a good day her last full Friday at .

“What do you mean?” she asked, pausing before heading toward the big yellow bus that she first boarded in September.

“Well, next week you have a half day Friday, and then school is over,” I reminded her. She nodded, and in our heads we both finished the thought, “And next year you’ll be going to Greenfields.”

In the past couple of weeks, it seems everything around us has been pointing to endings. Well, OK, the world didn’t end, but Oprah did, which is considered just as important to some people. Our schools are slowing down the academic pace and picking up on Field Days and Fun Days and final bells and goodbyes.

Of course, my kids are looking forward to the summer, when days are long and lazy and nights aren’t filled with mom bugging them about homework. They’re already getting ready for the free time. Max is planning to take guitar lessons, and Libby just auditioned for a new season at West Deptford Little Theatre. They’re looking forward with anticipation to new adventures and the slower pace.

But for some reason, I’m just not feeling it yet. They’re thinking late nights and days on the beach, day trips and barbecues. And in my mind, we just finished shoveling snow.

I guess endings are inevitable. After all, school closes every year about this time. But it feels like changes happen more quickly in my children’s world then it ever did in mine. Maybe that’s because I spent seven years—first through seventh grade—in a single elementary school.

Year after year I would don the same uniform as my classmates at St. Pat’s, the same starched white shirt with the Peter Pan collar, the same woolen plaid jumper with the pleated skirt and matching green wool knee socks. The classrooms would get warm quickly in those days—after all, we’re talking about 40-something kids in a class, and there was no air conditioning. I remember once the principal took pity on us and told the girls we could forgo the regulation knee socks for white or green anklets in May and June.

That afternoon, sitting on the bus, I heard two of the more stylish girls in my class talking. (Looking back, I wonder what made them the ‘stylish’ girls. I mean, from head to toe we all looked almost as alike as the nuns did. Did they wear loafers while the rest of us wore saddle shoes? But I digress.)

“Can you imagine Sister Joanne thought we’d want to wear anklets?” one said dramatically to the other.

“I wouldn’t be caught dead,” her friend responded, and I made a mental note not to tell my parents about the switch in uniform. I wore my woolen socks pulled to my knees right up until that final bell in June, and considered it a worthwhile sacrifice. (In Catholic school in those days, you were either sinning or sacrificing.)

It was the same for me year after year, until eighth grade. That was the year opened. My parents long avoided the public school system because of the dreaded split sessions, which would mean we, being in the junior high set, would have to take the late shift and walk home in the dark. Once the middle school opened, my parents transferred all of us there. The next year was a whole new world for me–a world without uniforms.

My kids have long shed their winter skins and have adopted their own uniform of shorts and T-shirts. And next Friday, I’ll attend the closing ceremonies at that middle school, when my son Max and his fellow eighth-graders finish their time there and begin their lives as high school freshmen.

And in my mind, I’m still dropping him off at Safety Town. I’m sure there’s a remedy for this. But where’s Oprah when you need her?


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Christine G June 12, 2011 at 04:43 PM
I'm having a harder time with the last day of first grade than I did with the first. Luckily I still have a little one who hasn't even begun school, but with her 2nd birthday fast approaching, I know it is only a blink away. By the way, I think anklets are cute. But what do I know? I don't even watch Oprah.


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