Tonight, Evan "graduated" from 5th grade. Tomorrow marks the last day of my 14th consecutive year at Bollman Bridge Elementary School. I find myself quite emotional at the thought. I have been breaking into unexpected bouts of tears all year as folks keep mentioning that this is the Nuss family's last year. I have been associated with BBES longer than with any institution or organization in my life other than my family of origin, the church and my marriage. I wasn't even in my childhood ward that long. It will be so strange to drive past and not wonder what my child inside is up to-automatically checking my watch to see if it's lunchtime, or peeking over to see if I can tell which grade is out for recess.
I've volunteered in cycles over the years, always preferring hands-on work with the students rather than PTA stuff. Some years I've been more available than others, but there is value in becoming familiar with your child's teachers and administrators. I've never sought nor received special treatment because of my involvement, but breaking the ice by just being at school gives one so much more of an understanding of what school is really like for a kid, and for a teacher for that matter. I have a lot more respect for teachers than I used to, and I can more easily discern when my kids need to be supported in their little complaints about school and when I need to take the teacher's side. I think I've done 6 memory books, worked in the media center (my favorite, of course) worked one on one with reading recovery, done Math Flash (a flash-card based math recovery program) been the Friday Folder mom at least 6 times, helped with many parties, baked many cupcakes, and taken a couple thousand photos. There are a few people who have been there as long as we have and it really feels like home-like its part of our Main Street world. It has been a foundation of my children feeling like they have roots in the neighborhood, like this really is where they come from. Evan had absolutely no fear of Kindergarten because by the time he started, most of the teachers knew him, the office staff knew him, and he loved going to school with me all the time when he was little. He was my constant companion when I volunteered in the years just before he started. We are so fortunate that, after moving around a great deal in our early marriage, mostly by choice, we have been able to be settled here for so long. This is not one of the "desirable schools" that real estate agents try to point new families to, but it is real, the people are hard-working and there is diversity, which is important to me. I really don't want my kids to know only rich white kids. That is part of the reason we've stayed here.
I guess I can place my emotions in the symbolism of this particular milestone. It means my kids really are growing up, and that the future is barreling toward me faster than I ever thought it would at the age of 20 or even 30. Time is compressing, and this is the evidence. When I think about where I was at the age of 19 and 11 months and where I am now, it's like Harry's first experience apparating with Dumbledore. I've been squeezed suddenly from one place to another and hardly know how I got here. I have a lot of school ahead, and plenty more volunteering to do, but there is just nothing quite like Elementary School. It is so safe, so innocent, so comfortable. The children, while they are growing up faster, really are still pure. I have always felt the spirit in attendance at BBES. So, I will miss it.
I pay tribute to all the people who have had a hand in my children's upbringing, who've helped them, praised them, chastened them, offered opportunities for growth, and been an important part of our family. The public school system is sometimes more exasperating than exhilarating around here, but in the end, it can work. Farewell, BBES...