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Friday, June 5, 2015

A Bittersweet Ending to the School Year (Again)...


That is how Sister Caridad, the barely 4-feet-tall Carmelite Sister and Principal of our children's school, described the feeling at our older daughter's graduation Mass.  And, so it is, at least for me.

My daughter's life at St. Theresa Catholic School, which has been her home away from home for the last ten years, where on the first day of Pre-K 4, I shed my first tear as her teacher talked to parents about what to expect (and I wasn't the only one, including the teacher herself!), and she had felt so loved, so safe and protected, had made life-long friendships, grown in her faith and shared in so many memories, laughs and tears along the way, has drawn to an end.  A chapter of her existence closing forever.

Yes, this is an exciting time.  Graduations usually are.  Proms, caps and gowns, diplomas, pomp and circumstance and a lot of fun and slacking off during the final weeks.  It's a time of celebration (three celebration meals in my daughter's case); as one chapter closes and another begins.  She will be going off to high school, where there will be many more friendships, memories, laughs and certainly a few tears.  Yet, the paradox is the hint of melancholy and nostalgia with a final farewell.

It's a familiar feeling.  In a blog I wrote in 2011, when my son was finishing his first year of school, I stated, "It’s funny how we, as humans, get attached to people, places and things. I guess it has to do with the fact that we were made for family; God’s family. Although we are just sojourners in this world and are made for our ultimate “home,” we have a natural inclination to seek “familiarity” with the people, places and things that make us feel like home." (Now, I'm quoting myself!)

You may think I'm being melodramatic (which wouldn't be that far off the mark!).  I know I still have two younger kids at St. Theresa but things will never be quite the same.  This is the last year that all three of them will be attending the same school together; that my wife will be rushing off with them in haste, screaming and yelling at the slackers left behind; that my parents pick them up from school together; or I, on a day off, can take them to eat frozen yogurt or gelato on our way home from school.  It's the little things (like yogurt or gelato) that really tug my heart!

The close to 90-year-old school was where, in Pre-K 4, my daughter was bitten in the chest by a 4-year-old admirer, and got into trouble for cutting her hair with a pair of scissors with a friend (that first year was a doozy!).  It was where she was watched over by her older cousins, who all attended the same school, and teachers, and later she watched over her siblings (already on the first day without her on Friday, the two little ones were lost in their own world, without their sister to call them into line, and I had to circle the parking lot twice!).  It was where she had her first girlhood crush, played on the girls' basketball and softball teams, and had been on the honor roll year after year, including the National Junior Honors Society.

Starting next school year, my kids will be on different schedules.  As my younger daughter goes into high school, probably following her sister's footsteps to an all-girl school, my older one will be going off to college.  And, when my son graduates, he will be going his separate way.    

So, it is definitely bittersweet.  As I wrote in the same 2011 blog, while I'm sure there will be plenty of excitement in our household about the upcoming summer vacation, and, later, the upcoming school year, I can't help feel a sense of somberness in my heart about the finality of a time gone by, which we will never again relive...

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