Today my four-and-a-half year old son graduated from his, um, second out of three years of pre-school. I'm aware that the graduation ceremony is more for the parents than the kids. (If I hadn't been before, I would have been as soon as I realized that, instead of playing the guaranteed-to-make-a-room-full-of-adults-weep "Pomp & Circumstance", the teachers had chosen a meek version of "God Bless America". Approximately 90 percent of Jack's schoolmates are sons or daughters of first responders. Firefighter and police families really dig that sort of thing. I can appreciate that.)
Seventeen little folk proceed to their seats, caps askew and gowns fluttering around their syncopating feet, and then there's number eighteen, my boy, with NO CAP thank you very much.
Surprised, am I? Noooooo.
I didn't feel pride, exactly. I am not foolish enough to think that he was making some sort of principled stand against uniforms, conformity, or the (delightful and appropriate) pomp and circumstance of a graduation ceremony for four-year-olds. If he were four or five years older, it would have been respect that I felt. But he's so little (and yet so big. If you have had children growing up in your home, you might know how a person can seem both so so tiny and so so huge at the same time.), I know that he was just doing the thing that he does. Not much more to it than that. It's not as if he felt oppressed by the authority who was trying to force a mortarboard on him.
He just doesn't wear a hat.
Nobody puts a hat on Jackson.
It's like me with ties. Unless you're getting married and you need me to wear a tuxedo, get that pretty noose away from my neck. Never again, I tell you, never again.
So now it's the little snacks-and-goodbyes party in the classroom afterwards. For me, there are memories of endings, and of new schools, new people; mysteries looming. These are teachers and parents and kids that I have known from pick-up and drop-off time for two years. But now we live in another town, and in September Jack, and later Lib will be going to school closer to home. It's bittersweet. Miss Sheila picks up Jack in a big hug and doesn't want to let go. Menisci of tears are to be found in the eyes of teachers, most moms and at least this one dad.
Jack is ready to go. It's just another day of school. In our embraces, he waits patiently for the car, where there is usually a snack for the long ride home.
When does that start for children? The missing things before they are gone? Is it a predictable stage of mental development? Or is it triggered by an event, different for each of us?
Is it something you have to experience before you can learn how to stop doing it?
I mourn the loss of innocence in the world. My children have not lost it.
I mourn the loss of playfulness in the world. My children play.
I mourn the loss of the natural world. I will walk home under trees, I will remove my shoes and walk in a field at night, and in the morning when I walk outside a spiderweb will tickle and tug across my brow.
I mourn the loss of our democracy. I vote.
I mourn the loss of the printed book. I am reading one.
I mourn the death of honest communication. I trust you.