The sun set on the 7-year-old Tigers as the last game of the season came to a close. Pizza, trophies and cupcakes waited on the bleachers. My children’s days are mostly accompanied by pizza, trophies and cupcakes. Earlier today was the first-grader’s class party, and the fifth-grader’s after-school pool party.
Tomorrow will be elementary school graduation.
“Not graduation, culmination, Mom” my fifth-grader reminds me. That’s what the teachers have called it, this ritual goodbye to their school of the past six years. Heartbreak, I call it. The moms have discussed the bringing of tissues, the wearing of sunglasses, the not-wearing of makeup. The kids will stand on risers in the auditorium where they celebrated their kindergarten graduation, singing songs in front of a similar audience of cameras.
It’s not a big deal, I remind myself. It’s a charming bit of theatre for the benefit of parents. It’s not a high school graduation, or college, marking the end of childhood, the venturing out from home. So why am I on edge tonight? Why did I need to flee the emptying ball field, trying to get away from the melancholy that followed me on the bicycle ride home anyway.
Trust your gut, I often tell my kids. What is the ache in my gut telling me? Why the buzzing anxiety? Tomorrow should herald freedom from schedules and homework. But it also brings a message from the future, from graduations lurking behind streetlamps, warning me that all this hurlyburly – this “Mom, where’s my bathing suit?” and “Mom, I hate everything that’s for dinner” and “Mom, will you read with me?” is only right now, gone too soon, slipping through our hands while it happens, and while I type about it.
The knot is there, tight in my belly. How I handle it will make all the difference. Deny it, and I will undoubtedly snap at my kids when they dillydally getting ready for bed tonight. The only other choice is not for the timid: Take it head on. Run headlong into sweet singing, awkward but exuberant ballroom dancing, and joyful squeals of freedom and uncertainty. Stare it in the face, and let it all out.
That will be me in the black sunglasses tomorrow, sitting in the front row laughing and sobbing, nostalgic for the right now.