Not only was it the last day of school, but also the long awaited graduating ceremony for our son’s fourth grade class. Before you roll your eyes, or click the mean little red box in the right hand corner, please allow a moment of contrition, of true transparency from one scattered human being to a very capable another.
I get it.
I understand that end of year celebrations are a little much, and are appropriate grounds for moms to pop all kind of sedatives on their way to Kroger for the third time in one day to retrieve last minute cupcakes, mini cans of cokes or gift cards for the teacher you didn’t remember until it woke you in a panic in the middle of the night.
The last week of school entails parties, ceremonies, and final classroom productions, all crammed in together in such a way that guarantees you will indeed take your child home for the summer. School escapism lasts for at least six blissful days, sleeping late and lounging until noon in pajamas, and then summer reality hits when one of your offspring says the two words that can cause a mom’s head to spin into orbit: “I’m bored.” This is immediately echoed by the others who depend on you for fun and frivolity which causes you to grab the nearest phone, dial respective administrators and demand summer school programs.
We found ourselves a little out of sorts on the last day of school. Gathering teacher gifts, class party snacks and all manner of recording devices, I had little time to address the grooming and nutritional needs of my children. Instructing all three to choose something on their own out of closets, drawers, hampers or the kitchen pantry, I hurriedly loaded the car down with all of the mandatory last school day essentials.
Chandler, our graduating ten year old, had to wear Sunday church clothes for the ceremony that morning. He chose appropriately, sporting long madras pants and white oxford shirt, looking so fantastically handsome that I had to pause and hug his soon to be fifth grade neck.
We pulled out of the driveway and I glanced in the rearview mirror to peer at the three children who had grown at record pace. So big, so tall, so independent – as evidenced by the pop tarts and sprites each had chosen for breakfast. Clearly, and thankfully, guidance was still needed by yours truly.
Chandler was the first to be dropped off for school. “I love you!” I called to him as he exited the car to walk with some of his well-dressed buddies. “I’ll see you in a few hours for graduation!” It was then that I noticed that the group of boys that surrounded him were all wearing khaki pants.
Oh, no. Yet another parental miscue that would cause embarrassment for my child.
After dropping off my other two children, I called a few friends to inquire about the dress code for graduation. Sure enough - girls were to wear dresses and the boys to wear dress shirts and KHAKI PANTS. Chandler was going to have to walk across the school stage wearing a pattern in sea blue madras among a wave of slacks the color of sand. He was going to stand out, be set apart from the norm, and I was going to cringe and feel horrible because of my subpar parenting.
I drove home to change from my carpool line uniform which includes bedhead, bedroom shoes and a runaway bosom. I also ironed a pair of khaki pants to take with me to the ceremony. My plan was to slip into Chandler’s classroom right before graduation was to begin so that he could rightfully fit in with his peers and I could sit in the audience without feeling so stinking inept.
When I arrived to his classroom, the students were on a final bathroom break, but I was able to hand the pants to the teacher. “If you don’t mind,” I said to sweet Mrs. Anthony, “could you please have Chandler change into these khakis before the ceremony? I wouldn’t want him to stand out or feel embarrassed about looking differently.”
“I don’t think he minds one bit,” responded Mrs. Anthony. “But I will certainly give him time to change.”
Breathing out a sigh of relief, I walked to the gymnasium to join my husband for the ceremony just minutes away. Another mommy disaster avoided. Good for me.
Soon the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance” could be heard, and a processional of fourth graders entered the gym. I hid watery eyes behind the lens of the camera, waiting to capture my son’s entrance, and suddenly there he was….
…in sea blue madras pants.
Chandler had not changed. It apparently did not bother him in the least to look different than the others.
Certificates were given, handshakes exchanged , and then the award ceremony began. Name after name was called, and as I clapped for each child honored, I was distracted by thoughts of my son – how much he had matured, how confident he had become, how securely he was finding his own way – when the final accolade was announced.
It was the Spirit of Life Award, a recognition to be given to a student in honor of a beloved teacher who had taught at the school for twenty nine years. Her adult son and granddaughter described the award to those in attendance.
“It is our pleasure to give this award in honor of the student who best exemplifies, through attitude and action both inside and outside the classroom, the highest spirit for life, for learning, and unselfishness to others. This year’s award goes to Chandler.”
And smiling as broadly as his face would allow, our sweet ten year old walked joyfully across that stage, head held high in those crazy, sea blue madras pants.
Chandler evidently knew something I didn’t quite get that morning. Standing out, being set apart, appearing different is a good thing.
A very, very good thing.
"Why fit in, when you were born to stand out?"
- Dr. Seuss