All over the county celebrations, parties and events marked the passage from one grade to another, out of preschool into kindergarten, making the jump from elementary school to middle school, and the middle school transformation where students emerge three years after entering barely recognizable, and oh so grown up. And, of course, the pièce de résistance, the move from high school into that big ol’ world.
Years ago, my pop marked the occasion with profound advice, delivered with a look I now realize was one of immense relief. The last of his three to graduate, the 10 years that separated me from my oldest sibling made my graduation day one that was a long time coming. “Fly little bird,” pop instructed with a grin. His words were accompanied with a flutter of his hands, just to emphasize the point. Every few minutes he’d mutter the same thing under his breath, with a wink to visiting aunts and uncles, who all seemed in on his joke. My folks were so pleased I finally made it they sprung for a new set of electric rollers, ones that I’d been eyeing for a few months. Suffice it to say our girls don’t quite understand the comparison between electric rollers and say, a new iPhone, but I was genuinely thrilled. The day was marked with equal amounts of pomp and circumstance and accompanying barbecues that I blissfully attended, with little realization about what flying would actually entail.
In our household there has been an ongoing debate leading up to some of the middle school continuation hoopla. My husband and I both scratched our heads trying to recall if we even went out to lunch at the end of ninth grade, concluding it was probably unlikely. The discussion of “what’s the big deal?” comes up periodically, probably starting with our first preschool “graduation” where we watched our daughter sport a tiny mortar-board and wonder why her teacher gave her a rolled up piece of paper.
Reminiscing about these past rites of passage it occurred to me that marking the event, indeed celebrating, really does serve a useful purpose. It’s certain the years will fade into one another and slip by far too quickly. There will be no opportunity to revisit this particular time, with this particular child, so having the chance to imprint and celebrate one final day will serve my failing memory banks well. I bet if pop were still around he’d remember grinning at me, and flap his arms just a bit, and we could then laugh together about how little I understood of the world awaiting me.
Deciding it is just fine to celebrate also was the first step to resolving some of my more immediate concerns. Lamenting to a friend on the phone earlier in the week that it just didn’t seem like summer, I confessed to feeling more glum than gay. The snowy month of May might have been to blame, but I realized the start of summer really is just the start of another work week for many of us, albeit a tiny bit more stressed as we try to figure out just how to shuttle kids, answer calls and deliver work on time. A feeling of despair, tinged with no small dose of panic descended, not boding well for the carefree summer the kids were determined to pursue.
Instead of trying to manage, I did what seemed more reasonable at the time. I ran away. In this case — literally — into the hills behind our home. Along the trail, seemingly overnight, the wild iris had sprung up, and fragile purple flowers adorned my path. The aspen buds had exploded into a florescent green that lit up the hillside. The change from winter to summer, another rite of passage, made me viscerally aware that celebration takes on many forms.
As my panic receded and was replaced by wonder and I began thinking about the value of celebration — just for celebration’s sake, whether it is a change in school venue, or because the snow subsides to reveal a hidden landscape. The opportunities to celebrate abound, even amidst the panic, it’s up to me to open my eyes to it all.
Cindy Bargell is an attorney and mom who lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
There will be no opportunity to revisit this particular time, with this particular child, so having the chance to imprint and celebrate one final day will serve my failing memory banks well.