So Long St. Tim’s

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June 15, 2017

 

Dear St. Timothy’s School,

Our relationship started in the fall of 1995.  My wife took a job with you, her second “real” job.

It was 2002 when our first, DJ, walked through your doors as a timid kindergartener.  Although her mother worked at the school, that did not stop DJ from holding onto her skirt and shedding a massive amount of tears at drop off for a significant portion of the year.

Fifteen years later, as our youngest finishes the eighth grade and we end our time with you, I reflect.

You have produced three honor roll students, two Mary’s in the Christmas pageant, one head cheerleader, at least one Student Body President (my memory fails me), a soloist at graduation, several runners (sort of) and a couple of Headmaster Award winners.  Each kid with varying personalities and talents were challenged.  Each left feeling as if she was capable of tackling the world.

When we were at our lowest, you surrounded our family – wrapping us in your safety.  You hired the teacher who bought our youngest new tennis shoes in the middle of the school day because I was so buried in grief I hadn’t noticed the sole was falling off.  You employed the art teacher who still meets my sophomore in college for lunch when she returns to town and the literature teacher who confessed that Stephanie was one of her all-time favorite kids.  There was the teacher who confessed to my child who wet her pants that she sometimes did the same; the one who brought To Kill A Mockingbird to life and the one who texted me with excitement when my kid cut 40 seconds off her mile in track.  Oh, and the one who didn’t get mad when our family went to school early to cover his car in post-it notes.

You allowed us to heal in an unconventional way – singing Christmas Carols in your hallways to an accepting audience; inviting Uncle Jesse and me to referee the staff/student annual basketball game; taking pictures when two alumni and a father arrived at the first day of school last fall dressed in old school uniforms.  You let us be us – supporting, giving space when appropriate, holding kids’ and father’s hands when needed.

I’m not sure, but I can’t imagine there are many schools that so readily allow kids to feel so safe, so comfortable that they can truly be themselves.  You have done just that for my girls.

I am forever indebted.

Thank you to all:  teachers, staff, administrators, parents and students for what you have done to build a most solid foundation in my kids and for helping to rebuild my family.

Danny Tanner

Taking It In For Two

Bailey at commencement

As wonderful as special occasions can be, I still find them hard.

For some reason, I can head to work each day without incident.  When Lisa died, we stopped eating dinner at the table and moved to the bar in the kitchen.  Ironically, I was the one who insisted on the table.  I think I like the Leave It To Beaver image of a man, me, sitting at the head looking out on all that I had – my kingdom – beautiful wife, three charming daughters and a nice backyard with very green grass.  Stools at the bar seemed to solve my emotional food disorder; even sleeping in that bed alone has become comfortable to me.

But toss in a high school graduation, a wedding or a funeral and I resort back.  Not necessarily to her death.  I harken back to what should have been.  She should have helped address the graduation announcement invitations.  She should have OK’d the white dress.  She should have read over DJ’s last speech to the school as Student Body President.  She should have been behind the camera lens, at the Apple Store picking out her college computer; there when grandpa gave her his old MINI Cooper – her character building Subaru in the junk yard.

As my beautiful senior walked down the brick pathway through the Grove at St. Mary’s School, I leaned over to my sister-in-law, “I feel like I need to be watching for both of us; like I need to be Lisa’s eyes too.”

It’s unfair to me to have to carry the emotional insecurity of sending my kid off into this big world alone.  It’s unfair to Lisa not to see her daughter soar.  She’s missing the tough parts and the glorious.

And I get it all.

One More Thing I’m Bad At

I sort of thought I was beyond the point where I was going to find things I was bad at as a “mom.”  I mean, it is clear that fashion for teenage females is not a strength.  Navigating and understanding the girls’ friendships is also a struggle for me.  The list of things that my wife could do better with raising daughters would be about the same length as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Unfortunately, last week, we discovered another.

Two months ago I received an email informing me that I needed to send five photos to be included in the end of year slide show for the mother/daughter charity league that DJ has been a member of since she was in 7th grade.  Aunt Sallie has been the stand in mom for the past few years.

The deadline for submitting the photos was January 5.  So, on January 4th I began digging through Shutterfly and Facebook to find pics that I felt would be appropriate representations of DJ’s life and interests.

This was my thinking:

Pic #1:  Lisa and DJ, for it is a mother/daughter club and they did start it together.

Bailey Ham 3

Pic #2:  DJ and Aunt Sallie, for Sallie is her stand in mom for the National Charity League.

Bailey Ham 4

Pic #3:  DJ and me, for I have received the 29,652 emails about this club for the past five years and I deserve some credit.  I know this one is a bit unconventional, but I felt it captured our relationship fairly well.

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Pic #4:  DJ sailing at Camp Seafarer – sailing is cool; she loves camp; lots of girls in NCL go to camp.

Bailey sailing 2

Pic #5:  DJ, in full costume at our annual performance of A Christmas Carol – which has been a huge part of our lives for the past four years.

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While I was at it, I ordered some photos for my photo album.

When they arrived, I proudly displayed them on the coffee table.  Smart dad!  Ordered photos so all can remember their childhood!  What a Lisa thing to do.

I was quite dismayed when my daughters began informing me how much they hated some of the pictures I had ordered.

“Oooo.  That is a horrible photo of me.  You ARE NOT framing that one!”

“But I LOVE that picture.  You look so cute.”

DJ nearly had a stroke when she saw the photo from A Christmas Carol in her Chimney Sweep getup.

“Dad, where did this come from?  It’s terrible.”

“Well I like it.  In fact, it is one of the photos I sent in for the NCL slide show.  It is one of my favorites.”

STOP THE BUS.

I’m sure parents of teenaged girls can imagine the next ten minutes in our house.  I was berated.  The pic was forwarded to friends who confirmed that I was an idiot and inept at choosing senior slide show pictures.  I was informed that DJ was taking over the next deadline, the yearbook ad, which also called for photograph selection and the crafting of a public message.

She then discovered that I had sent the sailing pic which was apparently a selfie.  I had no idea that you were not to send selfies in for senior slide shows.  I looked back at the original email, and that was not outlined as a guideline for photo selection.

She went as far as to text the Christmas Carol picture to one of her stand in moms with this message:

Dad sent this picture in for a senior slide show.  This is why I need a mother!

Had there been a fifty year old woman at the house that night, I believe she would have made me get married on the spot simply to insure there would be someone else to help guide me through the next four months.

I will say that one of her sweet friends told her that although she totally agreed with DJ about the picture, she could sort of see why a father might think it was a sweet picture of his daughter.

Go Kimmy!

I also informed DJ that the difference between her mother and me was that I would send in new slides and ask to delete the ones she did not like.  Had Lisa incorrectly chosen, she would have told DJ to suck it up and go to her room.

I wish I had more chutzpah.

PS: DJ did give me permission to put these photos on my blog because “only old people read it.”

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh