Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Our Last High School Senior

It's almost the end of the third quarter of Maria's senior year. Any day now she may hear from a school, about admissions. Or not. If she feels any tension around that it's from me being excruciatingly casual, reminding her to check her email. We ordered a cap and gown. She's considering going to prom, and Comedy Sportz. This weekend is the last FIRST Robotic's Regional Competition of her time as a Paradox. There's going to be one last movie night for Japanese National Honor Society. There are clocks already counting down, but neither of us is ready... each for our own reasons and with our own reactions, but we talk about this and agree, it's come too soon.

With one semester thrust into online, two years ago, then an entire year of remote learning, a lot has been lost for this class. Maria lost a year of Japanese class, and had to double up, but still had to take the AP test. She missed friend time, and socializing at school. Just this week, since the mandatory mask rule was dropped, she's learned that friends have piercings she'd never seen, moustaches, smiles! The laid back and open culture the school was famous for is gone, because of COVID, and school shootings, vandalism, and yet it's still a resilient, courageous and beautiful school, there is still hope, and enthusiasm, caring, curiosity. She doesn't want to skip a day, she doesn't want to miss out.

For me, it's about how much I loved the time when Alex, then Max were in high school. I knew their friends, and teachers, I could volunteer, support staff, mentor. Twice a year parents would be introduced to their students' teachers and classes during Back to School Night, and it was so cool! I loved sitting in Max's chair, visiting the shop where Alex learned metals, meeting their teachers, getting a sense for what kind of semester they would be having. And then, run into my own friends! Finally, being a part of a community, living in a neighborhood, it was an increasingly dear experience to see all of the familiar faces, have hugs, and laughs, and build more connections. No more Back to School Nights, and when this last one was online, just sitting at my desk watching videos, I cried.

I am very fortunate. A lot of the connections to the school and staff that I made while the boys went there, have lasted, and between this and Robotics, and Book Club, I still have opportunities to volunteer, to meet students, connect with staff, support the school. I'd like to add, that I am thankful to Alex and Max... during their years at the school they made good, and lasting, impressions with teachers and staff. They are still recognized, and that's always made a nice introduction, start, for Maria.

This week I am hanging out in the screenprinting room. Maria needed a teacher's signature for a field trip so I went with her to the Arts & Humanities Building... probably haven't been in there in over two years! She could show me in her English classroom, then Fashion-Design. I could see the desks, the bulletin boards, and books, the view from the second story windows, the art on walls, her's, her classmate's... and I teared up. Again. I know... emotions. I was raised to suppress those, and feel apologetic, but I can't, not any more. I am emotional. At 55 I may know myself well enough to say, "This is who I am." And it's all too hard to suppress these days, so who am I kidding? I am sad that so much of the beauty, the learning journey, has been isolated from us, and I am sad that this wonderful journey of being a Mom to young folks, in grade school and high school, in clubs, and on field trips, going new places, making new friends, that for us, for me, is coming to an end... not over, but certainly transitioning into a realm that is far removed from these kinds of spaces and opportunities. I have loved it, all of it, even the tricky parts. It has been worthwhile and a privilege, too. Maybe I cry from a kind of happiness, too. At graduation, I expect at least one student will quote Theodor Geisel, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." Certainly, there is a great deal to smile about. I loved loved loved this quiet visit, slipping into rooms, getting close up with art and school culture, and listening to Maria's voice as she described what happened here, or there, where she sits, where her friend sits, even the pause in her voice, waiting for my impressions, and repsonses.

I would like to thank every teacher that has had any tolerance for phones in the classroom. Actually, I happen to know that phones are an essential tool of the classroom these days, but still... I really appreciate that somedays I get texts from Maria. She updates me on events she needs to attend, or asks for a number for a student form, or even to help her recall dates, places where things took place, related to school or functions, or things coming up. She shares moments from Homeroom, from activities, like Culture and Pride Day, and pajama day, and Senior Java. Just now I am texting her about heading back to screen printing. Gotta get those shirts done for FRC!
Culture and Pride Day... the student's answer to vandalism, and racist hate crimes. Maria texted me all day, concluding with "This is a good day." She bought the sunflower in support of Ukraine. Simon bought an armful, and shared more with Maria, and she shared her's with Acorn. Maria said it was heartening to see sunflowers carried around all over campus.
One more quarter, and if it can be as good as it's been, or better... that would be wonderful.

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