Dreaded by me.
Highly anticipated by Miss L.
As we scurried around the house trying to get all our last minute things done, I tried to keep my mind on the "here and now". It was easy.
Easy because I had a three year old and six year old running around crazy while making jokes about random things including, but not limited to, poop, pee-pees and boogers, all while I was yelling at them--make that strongly encouraging them--to get around and get ready.
I made sure to arrive at the school plenty early because good seating is essential. By essential, I mean it is of required to keep your sanity if you teeter on the edge of being a little obsessed with getting the "right" picture. Or, if not the "right" picture, just MANY pictures.
And so we found ourselves with an aisle seat on the second row (with sixty minutes to spare). Apparently being a part of such a monumental moment did nothing to calm my six year old down. Nope. Instead she made three - or three hundred - trips to the trash can to throw away random items she found that "needed to be thrown away immediately". I am sure that the trash most definitely couldn't wait, just as she couldn't wait to parade around in front of all the parents who were arriving.
She spotted a good friend, and off they ran to go assume their positions in waiting with all other graduates. Hidden from all of the onlookers. To conspire, and plan and play.
And without even so much as a kiss goodbye to her mother.
In traditional Kim fashion, I couldn't help but think that the next time I would get to hug and kiss her....she would be a kindergarten graduate. Sigh.
In that moment, my minds eye flashed to the image I had stored of her from the very 1st day of kindergarten. Teal and brown sundress, matching bow in her hair. Pink and green backpack....and red eyes from crying because she just didn't want to go. Her tears kept me from shedding any...I had to be strong and positive....but I knew the truth. I didn't want her to go either. From the depths of my soul I had never wanted to hold on as hard....and not let go.
Tears sting my eyes now, almost ten months later, as I am writing this. My heart still hurts. The ache in my throat is persistent. These days will never be repeated. They are gone.
As I left her that first day in school my prayer was that she would make new friends, learn new things and be excited to go back.
She did and she was. I asked her if she had a good day.....and I will never forget her answer. "No. It was better than good...it was awesome".
I admit that it stung a little bit to know that I was that easily replaced....but my heart was happy and my prayer had been answered.
When comparing my mental image of her first day to her image on this graduation evening, it was easy to see the changes. Her hair was longer. Her legs were longer. And her baby face had elongated and become more of that of an adolescent than that of a baby. In fact, almost all traces of babyhood had left. The only trait that she carried through to this day is her animated face and expressions. Her face had changed, but that hadn't.
I hope it never does.
As I heard the first chords of "Pomp and Circumstance" I knew that I needed to stay focused on my goal of getting her picture. As I turned to look at Steven he nervously laughed at me and I could see the bloodshot eyes and hint of moisture threatening to give away his secret he was struggling to keep.
I whispered, "It is kinda early for that don't you think?" And laughed to myself that I had kept it together as well as I had and being all to aware of the internal battle I was waging.
I spotted Miss L as she was getting ready to walk down the center aisle. She was beaming. The only thing giving away her hint of nervousness was her foot, cocked to the side, as if that was the point where all of her nervous energy had came to a head.....or rather, a foot. In every other way she was holding still and displaying confidence. And did I mention that she was beaming?
As she approached, I became the nervous one.
Would I get a picture? Would she look at me? Is Steven crying?
And, arriving an hour early did not pay off. My picture was shotty at best.
Blurry too. And it wasn't because tears were filling my eyes. It just was.
This alone darkened my mood even more. I needed this. Like an addict needs his drug. I needed the picture. A good picture, to have, to hold and to reflect on when this night is just a fading memory that I can barely grasp. When the time comes that she no longer wants me to take her to school and walk her to class, when the time comes that she no longer wants me to lay by her at night and hold her hand until she falls asleep, when the times comes that she no longer says, "I will always be your baby".
I will need something to hold. Something to have.
And I know this time will come.
I will be old. Uncool. Know nothing. And a bore.
My arms and heart will ache for her, and her brother, and the moments I remember being needed by them. And better yet, being wanted by them.
The entire kindergarten class positioned themselves on the risers and began singing their kindergarten songs.
Is there anything sweeter than children's voices?
Not to my knowledge.
Their voices were sweet, their actions were animated and it was hard not to be caught up in their enthusiasm.
After they finished singing their songs, they made their way back to their seats to watch, along with the rest of us, a video compilation of pictures and music from this school year. They were excited to see themselves on the big screen.
I mean, this looks like excitement to me:
As the lights dimmed, I joked with Steven that at least everyone wouldn't be able to see him crying....and we laughed together.
The music started and the first picture came up and beside me I heard a loud gulp and sharp intake of air. I swung my head around to take in the picture of this very sensitive man packaged into a very rugged, hard working, tough guy exterior.
Again, the nervous laugh.
I said, "Steven!" as I pointed towards the screen, "THAT isn't even OUR child!"
Again, dampened eyes and nervous laughter, followed by "I know, it is all just so sad." My sister, who had been dogging on me the last few weeks about my sentimentality and sadness, just shook her head at the sight of her sister and brother-in-law who were struggling to keep everything in check.
I had swiped a few tears throughout the ceremony and had let them freely fall while they sang the song about seasons....pitiful, I know,...but was a goner when the video played the last song....a sad one, no less, accompanied by each individual graduation picture and that child's name. I couldn't help the sobbing.
I looked over and my sister, with the nerves of steel, was in worse condition than we were. Tears were streaking their way down her cheeks. One after another.
It was all too real and I knew that in what seemed like an instant, I would be looking at my 18 year old child's face flashing by in the same color cap and gown. I have to confess....I felt a little like I was drowning. Our children are the air that Steven and I breathe and with each day, the air becomes a little thinner.
One by one kindergartners marched up on stage to get their diploma. I left my coveted seat and moved closer to the stage. I didn't want to miss a thing.
The lighting was terrible and my camera was struggling between deciding to flash or not. I waited for the moment when she shook the Principal's hand and took her diploma in the other.
Nothing. No picture, no image and the moment, like all others in life, had moved on. That was it. There is no additional run through. Just like life.....one shot. No re-do's.**********************
While raising your kids you hope you do everything right and know with certainty that you don't. I know that I hope that the majority of my child's memories are like the most "perfect shot". The vibrant photo that captures the feelings and details of the moment.
I hope that the daily grind- me cleaning and multi-tasking and trying to fit 3 days worth of to-do lists into a day...I hope those moments are like many from last night-blurry. I feel that those memories need to be there, but I want them to be lack luster and faded. I hope these aren't the memories that are crisp and clear in their minds eye.
Crisp and clear moments, well, those would be time spent: at the park, riding horses, playing in the living room floor, praying before bed, conversations at the dining room table, doing mundane tasks together, camping, getting together with those we love and many, many more. In fact, those moments happen daily.... and it is these moments that are the "perfect shots". I hope all others are faded and overshadowed by them. It is important to know that they were there but not even worth looking at because they pale in comparison to the "pefect shots".
And finally, I hope that the moments of me yelling at my kids--or strongly encouraging my kids--(depends how you look at it) to get around, to get ready, to pay attention..... well, I hope those moments are similar to my camera refusing to take the ever important picture. I hope those memories refuse to take and the image of that never enters their mind. Or at the very least, I hope their memory will be so full of other images, better images, that they are intent on saving, that there simply isn't room for the others.
(OK, I think I need to add a disclaimer (or forty), but I will stick with one. I am maintaining that all of the crying made the air VERY humid and hence, my big hair. I swear, it wasn't that large when I left the house. In fact, I actually thought it was laying nice and flat. In this pic it looks like Miss L can barely get close to me for all the hair. Wonderful. GREAT! Wouldn't you know it? Of all times, THIS is the image my camera finally captures....clearly too!)