Friday, June 18, 2010

Language arts

Commencement. I understand that graduations are called "Commencements" to celebrate that which is expected to happen next. That this milestone is but a stepping stone. That one's accomplishments are but tools for one's new goals and plans and our collective expectations of and for the graduating specimen.

But can we just bask for a moment in the wonder of the milestone?

You might call me on semantics the way you might call shenanigans. But today was a big day. Today was graduation (or Commencement) at the kids' school. Should I even call it a school? Informally it's called a daycare. It's a daycare that follows a formal curriculum. Is it a nursery school? A preschool? A glorified babysitting system? (No, to that one.) It bills itself as a Child Development Center and that, I suspect, is where the shenanigans come in to play but we simply call it the kids' school. G, we say, is in the babies' class and L is in the 2s class and E is in the preschool class; and as such the kids' school celebrated its Graduation ceremony today. It was a big day.

Yiddish is a rich and crazy language. Now would not be the time to dwell on how I cry at graduation every single year. Let's instead discuss how much I cried this year, this very afternoon. I'm going to go guttural on you and tell you just how much I was shepping nachas for these kids I've known since infancy, but first let me tell you that that doesn't sound like 'nachos,' but closer to 'nakh-hs,' and I'll wait while you go back and read it again. Properly, this time. Thank you.

The kids who graduated today are just a few months older than E. They're the ones who ruled the infant room with their mobility and their pincer grasps when she was just a flaily three-month-old. They're the ones who could say her very pronounceable name as one of their first words, even before she could say it herself. They're the ones whose wiggly bottoms she studied when she was figuring out how to crawl; whose light-up sneakers she followed when she was figuring out how to walk; whose hands she held when she learned to run and skip and hopscotch. They're just a few months older than she, and they've been her friends and her mentors and her confidantes. Now when she studies their wiggly bottoms it's because she's pushing them on the swings and when she follows their steps it's because she's strategizing a fierce game of tag and when she holds their hands it's because she loves them so, just as they love her.

But these four special, wonderful, funny and generous and sweet and adorable and precious-to-my-heart graduates, they're Commencing, and when the end of August rolls around they'll leave our little school for the last time, for the brave new world of kindergarten, and when that day comes E won't get to hold their hands for hopscotch because she still has one more year of preschool.

And now I'm crying into my nachas.

Acronyms. You might call them BFF, or 'best friends forever.' I'm inclined to think of them as FFB, or 'friends from birth.'  They haven't quite known each other since the days of hospital bassinets but E and her best friend S have been fast chasing each other since she was thirteen weeks old and the new kid on campus. She loves all four graduates, but this boy, she loves him fiercely. Her love for him is demonstrative and possessive and loyal and argumentative. It's wide-eyed and all-encompassing and timeless. He's leaving her for the kindergarten galaxy far, far away from their adjacent cubbies and facing breakfast chairs and kitty-corner nap cots. Her heart is tender at his impending departure and I worry that she'll never love her preschool classroom quite the same after he's gone.

He is a smart and gentle boy who climbs trees with her, writes and enacts elaborate theatrical productions with her, gives her the king's share of his holiday candy. An insect lands on her arm and she squeals, the damsel in distress. Quickly he runs to her side: "E, let me get it off for you!" He is her knight in sleeveless t-shirts.

Whenever we leave town for more than a few days, she calls him. She tells him she misses him.

He is her protector, her defender, her helpmate. He is her artistic partner and favorite collaborator and, like in many of the most vivid relationships, he is also her sparring partner and her thorniest instigator.

Is that not a perfect best friend?

(October 2008)

A best friend who is Commencing.

(October 2009)

He is, I believe, her first love.


Adages. 'This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.' He will leave mid-August and she will carry on without him. They'll have independent adventures and joyous reunions. They'll function apart but they'll always come back together. Their friendship will grow as they become more separate, less entwined. They'll always have each other but today, this very big day, Commencing today was the the first step S took out of their shared little bubble

and away from her. Pin It