I don’t cook these ideas up on my own. They usually start as a small seed and then, the fam tends to play off each other and sim sala bim: magic!
I have been a parent at St. Timothy’s School for 14 years, and actually, Lisa worked there before we had children. Our family’s history there goes back to 1994. This year, Michelle, my youngest, is an eighth grader. When she graduates, we all graduate.
There are some pluses to this forward movement:
No more BINGO night! This annual fundraiser crams 2,000 people in an unairconditioned gymnasium that was built for 50. The Donovan family ALWAYS wins something. In 14 years, we have never even left the place with a Chic Fil A coupon.
No more meet the teacher events! I have met them. I have socialized with some. I can tell you the books we will read in eighth grade lit. I know that my kids will write an essay for the Daugther’s of the Revolution and some lucky sucker will get chosen to represent our school on the district level of this prestigious contest. Aren’t these daughters dead yet??
Overall though, leaving this place is going to be difficult. We have a lot of feelings and memories tied to this sweet place.
So, DJ, Stephanie and I decided that on Michelle’s Last First Day of school at St. Timothy’s, we should celebrate. We weren’t as concerned about recognizing her as beginning our year-long emotional exit strategy. The Headmaster may have to peel my fingers off of the playground slide at the end of the graduation ceremony in May.
Our first, simple thought was that the older sisters would join Michelle and me at morning drop off on the first day of school. And then, the what if’s began…
“What if… we all wear old uniforms to school that morning?”
“DJ, can you fit your butt into your middle school skort?”
“I’m insulted you would ask. I can. It’ll just be a mini-skort.”
“Dad, you can wear a kid’s sweatshirt. It’ll be funny.”
“What if we make a poster that says: Happy Last First Day at STS Michelle?”
“What if we take apples to the teachers?”
“What if we snap pictures, take a box of Kleenex and pretend like we can’t let her go?”
When she woke up that morning, I told her that her sisters had decided to go with us to drop her off. That they wanted to see their former teachers.
She seemed excited.
When they barreled downstairs in her uniforms, with red and blue bows in their hair, she seemed a bit hesitant.
“Are you guys going inside the school with me?” I could tell she was worried.
“Heck yeah!” her siblings replied.
“Dad, you’re not going to wear that sweatshirt.”
“I’m a bit chilly this morning.”
“It’s over 80 degrees!”
She was fine when we paraded through the office. The faculty were all in. When we walked outside toward the courtyard, where the entire STS middle school gathered waiting for the classroom doors to open, DJ yelled out at the top of her lungs: “This is Michelle Tanner’s Last First Day at STS! Let’s all celebrate y’all!”
Michelle, who is typically in the middle of our antics quietly whispered to me, “This is awkward.”
A familiar voice from the crowd, one of Michelle’s best friends, responded, “Michelle, your family is weird.”
We beamed with pride at the comment.
As we worked the crowd, she slowly slipped away disappearing into her circle of friends. Our attentions moved from her to others we’ve seen grow up over the past 9 years. Hugs, pinched cheeks, photographs, blown noses and fake tears.
At the end of the day, I asked if we totally embarrassed her. She said no. Our behavior was not unexpected. She also said, “It was pretty cool to have you all there.”
Perhaps one of the best things about this small, intimate school environment is that kids and their families can be themselves. We’ve known most of Michelle’s classmates for years. They’ve walked through our rough times, and we’ve walked through theirs. There is a ton of safety and acceptance at our school – and for that, I am thankful.