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.
It’s the last time, ever.