Closing a door

Last Thursday were Grace and Whit’s school closing ceremonies.  As he leaves 1st grade, Whit leaves the Morse Building, the part of the school for the very youngest children.  It’s where both of our children started at this school, at age 4, as Beginners.  The Morse Building will always be the first place I dropped my first baby off for her first day of school, and its halls, lined with large bright drawings and full of the clamor of small children, will always bring nostalgic tears to my eyes.

I sat in Whit’s closing ceremony, my husband on one side of me and one of my very dearest friends on the other, fighting tears as small voices songs from Free to Be You and Me and the theme from Greatest American Hero.  It was just moments ago that Whit was cross-legged on the mats on the floor while Grace sat on the stage, a member of the 1st grade, the “big kids” of the Morse Building.  Again, as it does so often lately, time collapsed and the radiance and sorrow of everyday life collided, sparks flying.  I fought to be here now as the past exerted itself like a riptide, dragging me down the disorienting corridors of memory.

Then the Morse Building children sang their traditional last song, Now It’s Time to Go, and I began to cry in earnest.  This year has not been any more full of lasts than any other, but my last child leaving this deeply special place has made them feel especially poignant.  The last Morse Building holiday concert, with a child curled on my lap on the floor as we all belt Snow Pants and I Am a Latke.  The last 1st grade assembly.  The last harvest festival.  I remembered Grace’s observation that she gets the firsts and Whit gets the lasts.  I swam in a morass of lasts, of endings, of farewells.

Once more, in that same small gym where so many transitions have been made and celebrated, the air was thick with both wonder and loss.  Wonder and loss, which are inextricably wound around each other, are the central notes of my life.

Then Grace celebrated the end her school year with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades.  Grace’s music teacher, who was also my music teacher, rushed over to me before the ceremony began and showed me a mimeographed page of the 1982 class lists.  My name appeared there, under IIS, with a star next to it to show I had been new that year.  The past clanged in my head and I held the back of the metal folding chair to keep my balance as that dizzying, familiar vertigo rose up: between past and present, between my daughter and myself, that this moment somehow contains all the moments that have come before.

And then it was over and we left.  We walked out through the Morse Building, through the doors I’ve pushed open with one hand so many hundreds of times, the other hand clasped by a small child.  Through the lobby where I’ve sat for hours, waiting for classrooms to open in the morning and for lines of children to emerge in the afternoon.  Past the nurse’s office where I’ve picked up children with strep, with stitches that have reopened, with mono, with sore collarbones.  Into the sunshine, blinking, through the playground where we’ve spent countless hours playing.  I can squint and see 4 year old Grace propelling herself around on the push tricycles, smiling at me across the yard while I sat on the faded wooden bench trying to restrain a wiggly toddler Whit from hurling himself into the fray.  The memories blinked in my mind like fireflies; they were brilliantly bright but I couldn’t make them stay.

And the heavy green door clicked shut behind us.  And we followed them out of the gate, which Whit is finally tall enough to open himself, and down the street.  My children leading me home and simultaneously walking away.

Radiance and sorrow.  Wonder and loss.  This one precious, devastating life.

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  1. Posted June 14, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Wow. Gorgeous. Thank you for this beautiful post. I’m in awe of your ability to capture what’s both difficult and wonderful about these moments.

  2. Posted June 14, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Beautiful thoughts, Lindsey, especially as I prepare to send Abra off to preschool in the fall, the very, very, VERY beginning of the long journey of the school years, which is innately full of so many beginnings and endings. I have always oriented myself to the school calendar — fall feels more like “the beginning” than January 1 does — and I can only imagine how I’ll feel when I’m standing in the same shoes you are now.

  3. Margaret
    Posted June 14, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Beautiful post Lindsey. Ever since my children have been in school, December and June are always the most frenetic months for our busy family. Even with all the beginnings and endings, I hardly have time to register them until July! It is truly all filled with wonder and loss, thank you for expressing these emotions so tangibly. I am confused, though, by yesterday’s post, as I thought Grace just finished up 4th grade, right?

    I have been quiet with my comments as I wrote one about a month ago that was long and all wrong. I wrote it in a bleary-eyed and exhausted state and everything I was trying to say came out all wrong. I was hoping you would delete it in fact. In any case, I have been so mortified that I have been afraid to press “send” ever since. Silly, I know. So I’m finally braving it once more! Too hard to stay away. You continue to inspire daily. Thank you so much. Happy Summer!!!

  4. Christina Mann
    Posted June 14, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Lindsey, this is wonderful. I am grieving leaving the Morse Building also….does this mean we never get out of the car again? I just had a flash of meeting you for the first time at Cambridge-Ellis, you visibly pregnant with Whit, me newly pregnant with Gracey and trying not to vomit. Our kids have had such special places to marinate in their early years. Thank you for putting this into words.

  5. Megan
    Posted June 14, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    You are such a beautiful writer. I don’t have children (and I won’t, having missed my window of opportunity) but your words convey so vividly what I imagine I would have felt too in the moments you describe, had I become a parent (if that makes any sense at all). I too spent time living abroad as a child and also tend to feel things incredibly deeply, both of which contributed in my own case to delaying (and ultimately missing) parenthood. I am a long-time reader but moved to comment for the first time by today’s lovely post.

  6. Nicci
    Posted June 14, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Beautiful. Powerful. (And now I’m crying.) xo

  7. Posted June 14, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    My eyes, heavy and laden from the emotion of my own lasts this week, swim once again with tears after reading of yours. I feel like I was there, too, feeling the surges, pangs and the glorious intersections of past and present. Beautifully articulated. Beautiful. xoxoxo

  8. Posted June 15, 2012 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    How lovely to have that history–to have attended the school, loved the music teacher, and to walk those same paths with your kids.

  9. Posted June 15, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    We’re wrapping up school as well. I can’t believe the year is already over. I want to go back and package up some of my favorite moments.

  10. Posted June 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I just volunteered for the school’s Field Day… Three-legged race. Remember those days? I’m moving to Chile with my family on the 25th of June and feeling the nostalgia of my American education…

  11. Posted June 16, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Your children are beautiful, and I wish them all the best in their new beginnings. I love the grace with which you celebrated what they have learned and shed light on your own memories of the Morse Building.