The Last Time

Yes, I know what Labor Day is for. My family’s background was to the Left and then some, and I grew up going to a hippie school where our music curriculum consisted of Joe Hill, The Springhill Mine Disaster and Charlie and the MTA, among others.

But as a teacher, Labor Day has been more a focus of new beginnings for me – the start of school. Everything from first day classroom nightmares, to the new pencil smell, to laying in stores of supplies for lunches or a new jacket or binder. It’s all part of the ritual.

For the past 12 years, that ritual has also included getting my son prepared for his first day of school. Even during the six years that we homeschooled, we had our rituals about the “first day”, so that it felt honored, new, fresh.

This will be the last year for those rituals, this thirteenth year.

My son will be a Senior this year.

To say that my emotions are complicated is to give the whole subject horribly short shrift. My son has grown into a responsible, caring, humorous young man. He’s someone I would be proud to have as my friend. He’s someone who’s as trustworthy as someone on the edge of adulthood can be. He’s not perfect, but I’m damned proud of him.

From that viewpoint, he and I are both ready to have him head off to college next year. I know he’ll be prepared – academically, socially and in terms of life skills and good judgment.

There are also little perks of his leaving – no more mystery about what to send for lunch with my sandwich-aversive kiddo, no more check-ins about homework or major projects, no daily “did you remember to contact X about Y?”

The predominant emotion, though, is that this glorious adventure that has been his childhood is almost over. The discussions about literary themes, blowing off steam watching the Colbert Report or Leverage together, having pizza on Friday night, even the grouchy responses I get from under his covers when I’m reminding him that he was supposed to wake up 20 minutes earlier – each of these mundane moments feels precious. Something that must be captured in crystal and preserved.

We had a full weekend – my son had a group of boys over for D&D on Saturday and he went off with another group for some kind of Star Wars simulation for a good 12 hours yesterday. As the boys ate dinner with us on Saturday night, one kept saying “I can’t believe we’re going to be Seniors.” They were making plans for dressing up strangely the first day of school and telling the Freshmen that it was required of all Seniors. Last night, as we had friends over who are the parents of one of his closest friends, the mom discussed Senior trip plans with us.

Yeah, my son is grouchy today. It’s the last day of summer vacation. But even as he grouches, there’s a twinkle in his eye.

He knows.

It’s the last time, ever.

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13 Responses to The Last Time

  1. Anne says:

    oh gosh, this spoke to me … and how!

  2. I thought it might. It’s a weird feeling, isn’t it?

  3. Karen Olson says:

    This is one of the most touching things I’ve ever read. It is a testament to you and your husband, too, as parents, to have raised such a son who will be ready to go off into the world next year. He sounds like a wonderful person and will do his best to do great things. Congratulations on your last first day. (And since I am also the parent of a sandwich-averse child, I do feel that pain 🙂 )

    • Karen, thanks so much for the kind words. On a much more irreverent note, I’m finding more and more parents of sandwich averse kids – interesting! We’re going to be watching Colbert shortly, because he admitted to be feeling really “weird” about this last first day, too. Needless to say, I didn’t bring it up to him, but he began talking about it during dinner. It’s a weird night. The start of the following school year will be a big leap for your family, too. That old cliche about how quickly it all goes is just… true.

  4. goofball says:

    aaah but the next phases will bring their own perks as well, I’m sure

    I am a bit lost in your first sentence though?

    • Hi Goofball,
      The first sentence is in reference to the fact that yesterday was a holiday – Labor Day – here in the U.S. It’s the last “vacation day” of summer – traditionally it was an extra holiday for workers, so they would be assured of a holiday on Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day. It’s also, often, the last day before school starts, depending on what state you live in.

      • goofball says:

        yes we have Labor day on May 1st but it’s in Canada at the end of the summer as well.

        I don’t want to be picky but is your first paragraph gramatically correct? the “and then some” seems to float a bit idle, and the references to music confuse me as well. That’s where I’m more lost than the holiday in itself.

  5. April says:

    I got a few chills reading this. I know you and your husband have done an amazing job. (Oh, and I just started watching Leverage, and love it!)

  6. Susan says:

    Hi Jen. The first paragraph is fine, of course. (There are links, people, if you don’t know the songs.)

    I was always one of those people who was sorry to see summer go, but loved what came after. This will always be the month that I flew off at age 17 to France, on my own, to enroll in a university there. I wish kids did more of that sort of thing nowadays. I was not going to wait for some junior year thingy. That was the last time there was such a bad recession & but it was possible. But then, I wasn’t expecting material goods–only the whole world:)


    • Susan, I’d still love to hear about those days, that decision, etc. I think a big reason why your sort of adventure doesn’t take place as often is due to the politics of fear and xenophobia that has permeated our country for the past decade. I *do* know a young person who took off straight after high school for the bright lights of Broadway, and has hung in there with a decent career for the past 6 years, and one of my son’s friends is planning to do that in terms of L.A. next fall. Again, it’s not about material goods – it’s about the world! 😉 Gotta love that energy.

  7. jeanie says:

    I’ve much to catch up on, my friend — you’ve been keeping yourself a secret. I’ll come back and comment on other posts, but I have to say this one touches me to the core. We didn’t have exactly the same experience with Greg and Kevin, since they lived with their mom. But we knew — with every event we attended — that the list was dwindling. And it was good. And it was — well, hard, in a way. Savor every moment, my friend! It’s well worth it!

  8. Luisa says:

    I am right there with you, my friend. I can’t believe both our Cs are heading out into the wide world this time next year. It’s bittersweet, but more sweet than bitter.

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