Jun 08 2012
She had to say it again. Her tone sounded … well, it sounded like she thought I was an imbecile: “Yes! TOMORROW is the last day of kindergarten.”
OK, I am sort of an imbecile. We men don’t compute things until they’re laid out in front of us with neon and barbecue sauce slathered all over. We should pay better attention. We should listen once in a while, but that requires more brain cells than we have in the bank.
And on this occasion I wasn’t guilty of not listening. I was guilty of disbelief. (“Disbelief” … Latin for “dis here belief is totally unbelievable!”)
How could it be? Kindergarten couldn’t be over and done with! Hadn’t it just started? Like last week?
The three of us — mom, dad, daughter (the dog and chickens weren’t invited) — had walked nervously into the foreign, even alien, cafeteria at Ketterlinus Elementary. It was for kindergarten orientation. It took place on a warm evening last summer. They had a dolphin out front — their mascot. Long halls looked like they were made for giants. Sinks in the bathroom were high enough that you didn’t have to hunch over. What was this strange place?
Big kid school!
We sat at the tables where my daughter would soon eat. We listened to instructions on how to dropoff kids and the importance of remembering to pick them up. I worried my brain cell bank account was too overdrawn for this.
It was a big step. It is for any family. And yet, somehow, it’s already over.
The final day of school seemed far off. Nothing worth thinking about. Getting emotional about. First it was months. Then a bushel of weeks. At one point I remember someone saying there were 44 days left. Forty-four days is an eternity.
So how are we there already? Which is why there had to be some miscalculation. Which is why I had to ask: “Wait a minute, tomorrow isn’t the last day of kindergarten is it?”
Which is why the person who answered had to think I was an imbecile.
But it doesn’t seem possible. That my little kindergartner is now a … a … FIRST GRADER!!!
And I’m going to miss it now that summer break is upon us. The walks to school. My daughter rides a pink scooter. The rest of her is usually pink. People think they saw a stick of flying bubble gum whizz by them.
I will miss the artwork she brings home, and the stories she wrote in class. What’s going to fill up every available inch of our house for the coming months?
I will miss her teachers — Mrs. O’Connor and Mrs. Power. Don’t let anyone tell you teachers aren’t amazing. Every morning they walk in and turn complete chaos into an instrument of education. It makes splitting the atom look like … well, child’s play.
Most of all, I will miss having a kindergartner.
“Next year you’re going to be one of the big kids on campus,” I told her.
She didn’t like the thought.
No longer will she be one of the runts, dwarfed by the taller “graders” who plod about like walking skyscrapers. She’s one of them now. Not the biggest, but no longer the smallest.
She doesn’t want it to end, either. Can you believe it? A kid who would rather put off summer break? She’d go straight on through if she could. Never graduating to higher grades. Eternally spending her years in the same classroom, cutting out flowers and spelling words like “cat” and “roof” while everyone else moves on to middle and high school.
Wouldn’t we all if we could? I would. Kindergarten was a magical time. Utter innocence without the clutter of the real world. All of that starts to come later. In third grade.
I sat on a wooden bench in the office one day this week while my wife asked one of her teachers a question. I felt like I was in trouble — as if I had been sent there for acting out in class. The principal walked by and asked how I was doing. Nervously (instinctively) I responded, “I didn’t do it! It was that kid!”
But as I sat there, I thought about how months would go by before I was there again. Months before I walked my blinding flash of pink to school again. Months before I have to make another peanut butter sandwich under deadline. Before someone has to yell, “We have 22 seconds to make lunch, walk the dog, brush teeth, use the bathroom and drive to school. Double time, people!”
How I will miss it, and all that goes along with the flight of the kindergartner.