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the future is the past is the future

The new school calendar came in the mail yesterday, along with a package three inches thick with forms, forms and more forms. And that was just for one kid.

I opened the calendar, glanced at September, mentally noted which kid goes to school at what time on the first day, and then flipped all the way to June. I stared at the page for a bit, allowing the dates to sink in:

June 23: Middle school graduation; June 24: Elementary school graduation.

I let out a little whimper.

When DJ finishes up fifth grade in June, it will mark more than a passing of his primary school years; it will also mark the end of my relationship with Parkway School. [Yep, there I am, first grade, goofy haircut. Notice the freakishly tall Mrs. Letterman who, when I was in first grade, appeared to be a giant. Giantress?]

So, in June, when DJ graduates a mere 30 years after I crossed that very same threshold I can cross Parkway School off of my list of Things That Connect Me to My Past.

When we graduated, we gathered in the gym, lit candles and sang the song "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" in imperfect harmony. They don't light candles these days. It took them twenty years or so to realize that handing a bunch of twelve year old kids who are high on excitement lit flames is not a good thing. I wonder what the song of the graduating fifth grade class of '04 will be? I think some neighborhood kids already started a petiton to have the Ataris version of Don Henley's Boys of Summer as their song. The more thigs change...

So, the day after DJ rids himself of the elementary school label, Natalie makes the move from middle school to....high school. My heart clenched as I wrote those words. How can this be her last year of middle school? Wasn't it just yesterday I was dragging her through the supermarket and telling her to stop crying because I was not going to buy that ridiculous cookie cereal for her? Well, yes, it was yesterday. Like I said, the more things change, the more you wish some things would not stay the same.

I guess I'm more bothered about DJ leaving Parkway than I thought I was, because my mind keeps drifting back to that even though I started out wanting to write about Natalie being in her last year of middle school already.

That's me on my first day of school. The school still looks exactly the same. Nothing has changed except my perception of it. The building was a large monster to me; all teeth and claws and fierce eyes, waiting for me every morning with it's stomach growling for fresh, young children. I tamed the monster eventually and learned to love it, even if I did not love everything inside it.

The monster did not seem so big and menancing when I dropped DJ off for his first day of kindergarten. In fact, it seemed downright friendly. I took a photo of DJ standing in the same place I was in that picture. I even tried to put the same dress on him, but he wanted none of that.

Another six years in and out of that school [nine, adding in Natalie's time], attending PTA meetings and teacher conferences and decorating the cafeteria to look like a barn for the Fall Harvest Dance. Years walking in and out of that building in the same capacity my mother once did, toting home a sick child, explaining to the principal that my kid was not to blame, admiring the art that hung on the walls and applauding wildly at the recorder concert.

Certain things I'm glad to be rid of, like the hand-holding, wishy-washy, touchy-feely staff that coddles the kids who cause trouble and psychoanalyze the victims of the trouble makers.

But here it is, only August, the beginning of the school year still almost a month away and I shouldn't be wallowing in the future by wallowing in the past. It's summer! Live for today! Forget the future! Carpe Diem!

Oh, my mother's JC Penney Christmas catalog came in the mail yesterday.

And they wonder why I can't live for today.


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I'm sorta glad my kids didn't go to the same schools I did. I hated my schools but, fortunately, I never overlayed the bad feelings that I had on top of my kids' experiences. At least, I don't think I did.

Now my youngest starts his freshman year at college in two weeks...

What's with the school years getting longer? Not that I mind, but didn't we go to school pretty much Labor Day to Memorial Day? Now yours aren't getting out till late June. Mine get out early June, but they've been in school since Tuesday. What's up with that?

I remember our recorder concert, in the fourth grade - I didn't memorize the songs, and I don't think anyone else did either, so we all just moved our fingers around and pretended to play. Probably 3 people were really playing. My parents said afterwards that the recorder was a suprisingly quiet instrument.

It might have been nice to send my kids to my old schools, but we moved around a lot. They never did have to do a recorder concert - it must be a tri-state area thing.

Where did the idea of having a graduation for everything come from, I wonder? When I was in school, not that long ago, we had a high school graduation, and I dimly remember a "moving-up day" at the end of nursery school when I was 4. That's it. None of this "elementary school graduation," "middle school graduation," etc. How did those come into being, I wonder; who decided we needed to "graduate" from everything?