Essay A Day Of 'Lasts' At The Schools

I guess I just wasn’t expecting it—the acute feeling of sadness that I experienced Tuesday morning as I dropped my daughter, Anna, off at the Henry T. Wing School for the last day of classes.

She is (rather, was) a graduating 8th grader—a member of the last 8th grade classes coming out of the town’s three K-8 schools. Next year the 8th and 7th grades will be at the new STEM Academy at the high school.

With the Wing School set to close next June, Anna is also part of the last 8th grade to graduate from the Wing School, ever. It’s a big deal. On the short drive to school Tuesday, I had joked with her. “Oh, here we are on our last drive together to Wing.” “Here we are sitting in a line of traffic on Water Street for the last time.” “Here we are taking the left turn into the school’s driveway for the last time.”

She didn’t find me particularly funny, but I was enjoying the blithe banter on what was a beautiful summer morning.

But when Anna got out of the car and closed the door with a quick wave and a smile over her shoulder-as she’s done every school morning that I can remember this year—I hesitated as the true finality of the moment struck. I didn’t drive off immediately. I waited a second or two and watched her walking toward the school.

Here I am, I thought as I sat in the idling car, and there you go. I’m certain that I was not alone in my melancholy Tuesday morning. Parents dropping off their children at all three of the schools surely were experiencing similar feelings at precisely that moment.

And it’s not just the parents of departing 8th graders. This year, it’s also parents of 6th and 7th graders. Their children will be leaving these familiar schools to become the inaugural class of the STEM Academy. That’s a big, big deal.

These thoughts passed through my mind during the few moments that I sat there watching Anna walk away. Not wanting to cause an undue delay for the parents lined up in their cars behind me, and not wanting to embarrass her, I put the car in gear and drove off slowly, stealing a quick glance back to see her climbing the stairs for the last time before walking through the open glass doors (for the final time).

The feelings of finality stayed with me all the way to work.

Then I recalled a conversation I recently had with Anna about the significance of this last day of school. She wondered if she’d cry as she left the school for a final time. I urged her not to think of this time as an ending. I suggested she think of her time at the Wing School as a big bowl of ice cream (OK, a little cheesy, but ice cream is a “happy” food).

“When you finish that bowl of ice cream, you’re not sad, are you?  No, you’re happy that you had the ice cream and you start looking forward to the next bowl.”

Not missing a beat, she said: “Wow, you’d let me have two bowls of ice cream?”

We both laughed.

She got my point. And, apparently, my goofy sense of humor.

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