One year ago I graduated from elementary school. Really it was my son who graduated but when he crossed the stage in the auditorium for his certificate I swelled with as much as accomplishment as he felt. Fifth grade was busy: Igloo models made of sugar cubes, reports on volcanoes, poster boards plastered with magazine photos of endangered animals. Holding my breath as I watched my son I thought ahead hesitantly to middle school: Lockers, algebra, girls who wear lip gloss. His teachers thought he was ready but I was not sure I was.
Between football practice, making new friends and trying the salad bar in the cafeteria, sixth grade started smoothly. I was still holding my breath. The first report card came home in October. All As? I double checked the name on the official paper. Student of the week? All of the teachers signed the letter notifying me. The holiday break came and went and I still had not been asked to help with a single project. Stacks of National Geographic magazines were piling up on the coffee table next to the dried out glue sticks.
I felt silly for buying a new box of crayons for his Christmas stocking. We did not need them anymore, not for school. With the school year half gone and a relieved grin on my face I declared that popsicles were only for popsicles from now on in my house.
In February while staring at the snow blanketing the trees outside my windows I pleaded with the sun hiding somewhere behind the gloomy, grey clouds. I will not complain about you ever again. Please make the ice go away so I can get out of the driveway. I am running out of coffee and toilet paper. And my son needs to go back to school. He is going to forget the alphabet and how to write his own name if the schools do not open again soon.
The sun took pity and while sipping my coffee I watched the winter melt as quickly as the rest of the school year. Being able to throw open a window felt exquisite, but then came the time to turn on the ceiling fans even if they do scatter my newspaper pages across the living room. Science textbooks are all wrong. The start of summer is not at the end of June. The start of summer is the day my son whines he is too hot to play video games which is usually around the last day of school.
He has been humming a song to himself this past week, something about the last day of school being the best day of school. I find myself singing along with him but for different reasons. I am proud of his grades and the maturity he is showing. Mostly I am thankful. Patience does not come easily to me. It takes practice. If I had more maybe I could have been a teacher. They deserve recognition for all they do. So my first, last and only project of this school year will be to write thank you notes to each of my son’s patient teachers, the men and women who dedicate their lives to building a better future for all of us one good kid at a time.