I lean against the corner of the covered playground area, watching. The sun beats down between my shoulder blades, warming me. I have my camera at the ready, but I know it’s not really pictures I want to take. I simply want to soak in this morning. I feel it. I’m in it.
More than remembering, I am reliving.
Faces glow. Smiles abound. There’s an energy, a buzz in the air. Boys and girls hold bouquets of flowers, potted plants and gift bags, decked out in flip-flops, sandals, shorts and sundresses. I linger, wanting to take it in and hold on to it as long as I can. It only comes once a year.
The last day of school.
Anticipation. Excitement. Freedom. Friends. Laidback routines. Fun. Summer stretches out into days, months even, feeling like there is no end in sight.
From Kindergarteners to Fifth Graders, over seven hundred kids line up on the blacktop, waiting for their teachers to come lead them to class. Kids chatter with a nervous, excited intensity. Just hours to go. The Principal, in her suit and sunglasses, signs yearbook after yearbook, as sought-after as a celebrity at a Meet ‘n’ Greet. She’s moving on to the Middle School, so her signature is one they want to capture and are certain to cherish.
Finally, the bell rings. Teachers make their way out. My son’s Kindergarten teacher passes by and we wish each other a happy summer. His First Grade teacher follows. “A bittersweet day,” she says to me, summing it up. In the distance, I see my son and his buddies follow their teacher. I watch as he disappears behind a portable, noting that it’s the last time I’ll see him as a Second Grader.
Four hours later, I greet the bus, cheering, as it arrives. Again, I have my camera at the ready, but I doubt I’m going to take any pictures. I high five kids as they step down to the sidewalk. My son emerges as a proud, smiling Third Grader. We walk back to our house and he shares the highlights of the day. Yes, the Principal cried. Yes, his teacher did, too. We get home and try to figure out what we can do since it’s the Last Day. We mill around a bit. I put some things back in the garage as we toss some ideas back and forth.
“I don’t want it to be summer,” he announces.
I look up.
Here is the bittersweet.
We talk about missing friends and keeping in touch. As the idea of summer stretches out before him, along with the realization that he won’t see his friends everyday, his face shows a tinge of sadness.
But it passes quickly and we are back to the important decision at hand.
We decide on the Rage Cage. He grabs his bat and batting glove and we jump in the car, off to enjoy the first —thankfully, sunny—afternoon of summer vacation.