Graduation season even affected my toddler home this year.
I just returned from another quick trip to Lansing — this time to open a time capsule with my first set of Michigan students and to attend a graduation ceremony. The time capsule turn-out was great; more than 25 seniors (and even some of their parents!) enthusiastically returned to unveil crusty mementos from seven years ago.
Many of the items that came out of the box were marked with memories of the biggest historical event of that year and this decade — 911. It was eery to look around the room at the grown-up fifth grade faces and actually see flashbacks of the way each had responded to the images of planes crashing into the towers. Some were terrified, while others, like Brennan, were clearly confused. I’ll never forget him lounging back in his chair, arms crossed, legs stretched out, and remarking “Cool!” as we all saw bodies the size of pins plunging toward the earth from heaven-reaching Twin Tower floors. Brennan was taking in a dramatic scene from the latest “Independence Day”-esque movie; most of us were witnessing a reflection of hell. I wonder whether he remembers his interpretation of the day that reminded Americans why they should fly their flags.
The current fourth grade and one second grade class showed up to view the time capsule opening too, and I got to play teacher again for a few minutes. I thought I was going to cry when the words, “Welcome, boys and girls” smoothly spilled out of my mouth.
But if you want to know about tears…Flash-forward to that evening when I attended the alternative high school graduation. I went in hopes of seeing one of my favorite students, John, graduate. It turns out that a total of eight of my prior students were graduating from the “other” high school! (Two of them were in Greenwood’s other fifth grade class, but I taught them social studies for about an hour each day.)
I sat in one of the dark back rows sobbing as each young adult crossed the stage. I cried because they wound up at the alternative school. (Could I have done more?) I cried because I was proud that they actually made it to graduation. (Honestly — and unfortunately — the writing for this kind of future was already on the walls of many of these kids in fifth grade.) Most of all, I cried because it hit me that I had been part of some of the smaller moments that led up to this big one; I realized how honored I am to have been an integral part of their childhoods. And I cried because I am no longer an integral part of any fifth grader’s childhood. What an awesome job I had. Wow.
Well, the look on John’s face was worth the act of God that had to occur to get away from Ludington. John gave me two hugs and a promise that he would let me know how things in his life turn out. And (more tears) he thanked me for having always believed in him. I also received hugs from four of the other kids, and I got to meet the son of one of the girls. That little guy is the same age as my little guy. Another wow.
I happily returned the next day to my own children — the ones whose childhood moments I now try to make the very best. I thought all the way home about what I will do to get each of my kids to that day 16-17 years from now when they walk across a stage. Talk about tears! I think I need to prepare for a flood.