On a warm sunny day, back in 1999, my son began his education adventure in our local elementary school. Toting an Arthur the Aardvark backpack and sporting velcro sneakers, he headed off without looking back into the kindergarten classroom that became his second home. Six short years later, he and his classmates - now friends - were essentially finished with reading, writing and 'rithmatic and moved on to the Middle School.
In our little corner of northern New Jersey, the Middle School and High School share the same building. The only ones who seemed to mind the fact that eleven-year-olds were running around the hallways with seniors seemed to be the parents. The older kids liked having the younger ones around, showing them where to go, laughing at their supposed stupidity.
Suddenly, three years passed and my son achieved another milestone, moving on up to the High School, after a completely unnecessary Promotion Ceremony. After all, the only difference between the Middle School and the High School is the size of the lockers.
And now he and his younger brother were both in the same building - albeit with different sized lockers. The elementary years were over and it was time to get serious.
|Above- last day of Middle School|
Below - first day of High School
Note that my kids are wearing the same shorts on both days!
The first three years of High School flew by in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, parents were meeting to organize the post-graduation event, Grad Ball (I have blogged about that before here: Wonderment). Fundraising, photographing and construction took place over the course of fifteen months - yup, we started during junior year. But Grad Ball had an added advantage. We were so focused on the party that we were distracted from the event that the party was to celebrate - graduation. I have to admit, that was not such a bad thing.
Before we knew it, June 19th arrived. It was the hottest day I could ever remember and with graduation to take place outdoors, no one relished the idea. Promptly at 6:00pm, however, with the Ambulance Corp manning the cooling tent, the pomp and circumstance began. All I can remember is thinking that I couldn't believe the day had come and also hoping it would end very quickly. Did I mention it was the hottest day I could ever remember? It was so terrible that parents finally convinced the principal to let the kids wear shorts under their gowns instead of long pants and shirts with ties.
I have no recollection of that summer, the summer spent acquiring all the accoutrements of college - the bed spread and sheets, the lamp, the printer, the laundry hamper. I barely remember moving him in to his hot dorm on a Saturday in late August, of making the bed, of unpacking the clothes. Of the saying goodbye. But at least he graciously (okay, reluctantly) stood before the tree outside our home one last time before heading south to his future.
How these four years have flown. It is trite, but it seems like only yesterday that I took this photo of him in his High School class shirt, about to make the trip south. Yet, here we are, just two days from yet another graduation on another hot day in still another outdoor venue. This one will be packed with 4000 graduates, not 225. There will be no individual procession to receive a diploma. Those will be sent through the mail. It will be impossible from the stadium seats to pick out my son - still small in my mind - from the crowd of grads all wearing the same outfit.
But one thing will not be different. The pride I feel of raising two wonderful, amazing boys, of guiding them into college, of watching them bloom and grow will be the same. In the end, though, their success rests entirely on their shoulders. My husband and I only provided the means. They will have to do the rest. And my older son has indeed done the rest. He has been on the Dean's List all eight of his semesters. He added a second major during his junior year and completed all the requirements within the allotted four years, something many of his friends have not been able to do. He lived in an apartment and learned about paying rent and bills, about shopping and cooking for yourself, about becoming an adult.
When this weekend ends, my empty nest will be full again, filled to the brim with boys and all the stuff they have accumulated while away from home. I had gotten used to the quiet. I had gotten used to not finding teenage detritus everywhere. I do not relish that reappearing, but knowing that my boys are here, with me, for perhaps just a little while longer makes the mess entirely worthwhile.