17 May 2013

The Graduate

Preschool graduation. Yeah, that’s a real thing. I didn’t know either.

Until this past week. When our son, the Doozer, became a preschool graduate. After two years, as a 3- and 4-year-old student, it was time for his Moving On ceremony. Instead of a cap and gown, he wore a self-decorated paper crown. And his very best robot/spaceship necktie.

His (amazing) teacher gave each kid a memory book with various drawings, photos, and even a little diploma. One page featured a photo of him from the very first day of 3’s class, plus one taken within the last few weeks. “They grow up so fast,” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I was reminded of one of my favorite scenes in Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming (appropriately, also related to the subject of graduation):

          Max: I’m too nostalgic. I’ll admit it.
          Skippy: We graduated four months ago. What can you possibly be 
          nostalgic for?
          Max: I’m nostalgic for conversations I had yesterday. I’ve begun 
          reminiscing events before they even occur. I’m reminiscing this 
          right now. I can’t go to the bar because I’ve already looked back
          on it in my memory... and I didn’t have a good time.

When you’re a parent, especially if you started out as a nostalgic person, that nostalgia gets instantly ramped up to 11. You become nostalgic—non-stop nostalgic—about absolutely everything. (Or maybe that’s just me. If it is, I don’t want to know.) Hence, not a single dry eye in the house during the preschool’s Moving On ceremony.

It’s really the teacher’s fault. Yes, she was amazing and wonderful and we are so completely grateful that our son got to be in a classroom with her two years running. But when she started the montage video, the time capsule of memories from the year, I knew she had it in for us. Her song choices for the soundtrack to this trip down memory lane were evil-genius level manipulative. That Hawaiian version of “Over the Rainbow?” Get out.

And it just went on from there. That video was maximized to turn all of us ridiculous parents into blubbering puddles of unchecked, flat-out embarrassing emotion. And we willingly obliged.

Not that we really need all that much prompting. Having children has revealed to me that I have emotions somewhere inside of me that I did not even know existed. And they like to emerge frequently, often at inopportune or seemingly incongruous moments. Your kids are riding together in a wagon? Suddenly there’s a lump in your throat. What? They’re trying to wiggle away from you like angry eels in the bathtub? Tears are forming in your eyes. Seriously, what?

Following the ceremony, there was a party, where the kids were all super-excited about frosted cookies and juice and miniature pieces of cheese with tiny wheat crackers. Don’t you understand the gravity of this situation? Don’t you know what you’ve just gone through? Do you have any idea how significant and important this event has been? And you’re excited about cheese?

Okay, I see it. Fair enough.

As I found the Doozer to pull him aside and say good-bye so I could depart the graduation festivities and return to the real world—namely, work—I gave him a quick hug and kiss, as we usually do. And as I did so, I found myself telling him I was proud of him. But here’s the thing. I could barely get the words out. They caught in my throat. I felt the wheels turning and the waterworks coming. I was literally overcome by the emotion of my son “graduating” from preschool. Like I was a teenage girl watching The Notebook for the 300th time.

So, yeah, I’m nostalgic for things that happened yesterday. In the last hour. And a few minutes ago. There was a great line in the series finale of The Office last night about wishing it was possible to know you were experiencing the good old days as they were happening, and not just recognize them as such after the fact. I’m pretty confident these are the good old days, happening right now.

And I’m sure I’ll be nostalgic for them for the rest of my days.

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