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

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Last First Day

STS last first day

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?”

“Pretend?”

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.

Traditions

AT Mary

My Michelle wrote this paper for her writing class.  I think it says a lot about the importance of tradition.  Life is all about building memories.  It often takes year to learn the impact of what we do today.

The Christmas Pageant

The chapel at St. Timothy’s during the Christmas season is beautiful. Standing at the front of the dim room, is a huge Christmas tree that almost touches the ceiling. Four colored candles are placed on a garland that is held from a long, bulky, black chain. Blood red poinsettias line the edges of the alter. The smell of cinnamon fills the air and makes me feel relaxed. The Christmas spirit surrounds the chapel. Different Christmas celebrations take place in the chapel including a special Christmas service and singing holiday hymns. My favorite tradition is the annual Christmas pageant.

Every year St. Timothy’s puts on a Christmas pageant for family and friends. Each grade is assigned a distinct costume to wear. My favorite year was in first grade when all of the girls got to dress up as angels, and all of the boys dressed up as shepherds. Angels had to wear a white dress of any shade. Every little girl had a different and unique dress. My dress was bright white with sleeves that covered my shoulders, as well as a rectangular shaped collar. We also got to wear halos with shiny fringe on the top. That night we all felt like real angels.

The next year, in second grade, everyone had to dress up as an “around the world” character. Some students were European soccer players and held a soccer ball as they walked down the middle of the pews. Others wore snow boots and a jacket to show that they were from a cold part of the world, like Antarctica. The dress I wore was green, and it had a Jamaican style to it. My two older sisters, as well as other friends, wore it in previous pageants. The outfit included a headband that wrapped and tied around the head. My aunt, Sallie, had it especially made for us when she visited Africa, so the dress is very precious to my family.

When my mom was sick with colon cancer, my sister, Stephanie, was Mary. My mom always helped with the readers and the choir in the Christmas pageant. Since my mom wouldn’t be able to see the real Christmas pageant, because she had to have surgery, the Headmaster arranged a dress-rehearsal, with Stephanie as Mary, just for her. Even though I wasn’t there, I can still imagine her smiling face.

The last year our grade was in the Christmas pageant was in fourth grade. I tried out for Mary, Jesus’s mother, and Gabriel, the angel. Everyone was so anxious to know their part. Mr. Farmer, our chorus director, hung a sign outside of his office. Everyone crowded around the small printed, but long list. I was elated to find out that I was going to be Mary, and that I would have a solo! Mary sings a song about her son, Jesus. My favorite part of the song was when the choir echoed me. I was so proud of myself, and I knew my mom would have been too.

After my last year in the Christmas pageant, I was very sad that my grade and I would not be participating anymore. This pageant made my friendships, as well as my connections with my teachers, much stronger. I am also always amazed by the story of Christmas, and I am so happy I got a chance to get to learn more about it. I will always remember the happy, and sometimes sad, memories of the St. Timothy’s Christmas pageant.

Thank you St. Timothy’s school for the impact you’ve had on my children.

 

Razorback Bra

More and more I find myself in a room as the only man with a group of women.  That would be nice if they were all single and looking for love.  In my case, they are not.  Most are married and parenting my children’s classmates.

Dads just don’t participate that much in these parent meetings for their daughters’ activities.  It’s dumped on poor mom.  Would be too in my house if there was one for the dumping.

Last Saturday was the mandatory parent meeting for the cheerleaders at St. Timothy’s School; me and 15 lovely mothers were in attendance.  They all looked fairly nice.  I was in flip-flops and had a visor on to cover my bed head.

Although I’ve attended this meeting for the past five years, I think they felt a good refresher was in order.

We discussed the game and practice schedule and debated how much “stunting” should be done.  I’m not too worried but don’t care to see my 13-year-old flying across the gymnasium like a final second NBA half court shot.

We were reminded no jewelry – hoop earrings and “Rah Rah Ree” just don’t mix.  Did you know that a neighboring teammate’s finger could get caught in the loop and split the lobe right open?  Yuuuuck.  Had to put my head between my legs when that image ran through my brain.  Thought I was going to pass out.

If I were female and that was even a remote possibility, guess whose ears would not be pierced?

Then we covered the topic of uniforms.  Not too short we were informed, it is an Episcopal School.  Interestingly, we parents pointed out that the team we play against with the poodle skirts look pretty outdated in the year 2013 (that school is apparently a bit more conservative).  But Mrs. Ready, the Middle School Principal, says that the skirt can’t be shorter than 6 inches above the knee when you’re kneeling.  I measured my kids’ when they were doing their nightly prayers.

“Put on your school uniform and kneel!”

“Why do you have the yardstick dad?  Are you doing to beat me?”

“Nah.  Just following up on Mrs. Ready’s request.”

Incidentally, she’s also the one who walks through the gym during the school dances reminding kids to “leave room for Jesus.”  I love that woman.

Then, the coach said everyone on the team needed to wear a “razorback bra.”

I’d never heard of such a thing, my curiosity was piqued.  I almost raised my hand for clarity but from the looks of the others in the room, I was the only one who needed to be enlightened.  Plus, I have DJ, a good resource in these situations.

I’ll have to admit, I had a difficult time concentrating for the duration of the meeting…

What in the heck is a “razorback bra?”  Does it keep the hair off your back?  If so, Uncle Jesse needs one of those.  Does it have spikes on the back?  Kind of a reverse Lady Gaga?  Is it manufactured by students from the University of Arkansas?

On Tuesday, a friend from work announced that she was going to Target and asked if anyone needed anything.  I know her fairly well so I pulled her in my office.

“Hey, when you’re there, could you see if they have any razorback bras?  Stephanie needs one for cheerleading, and I don’t know where to find those.”

“Do you mean racerback?”

“Hmmm.”  RACERback.  That –  makes –  sense.  “Yea.  Yea.  Racerback.  You wear them when you race!  That’s it.  That’s what I mean.”  (Nervous laugh.)

So for all the dads out there who are responsible for bra purchases in their home, a racerback bra swoops in on both sides of the shoulder blades, sort of like a swervey capital letter I.  If you’re still unsure, picture it on backwards.  If you envision something you saw at your bachelor party, you’re on the right track.

BBBBBBBBBBBBB

report card

Apparently Miss Stephanie had a tough semester.  She realized Friday that the quarter was coming to an end on the following Tuesday, and Little Bit’s six A’s from last semester were appearing to turn into one A and five B’s.

Thankfully, it is not her fault.

“This quarter was not a full nine weeks.  It was shorter,” she argued.

“Stephanie, I assure you that the third quarter is exactly ¼ of the school year.  It is the same length as the first and second ones.”

“No dad.  It isn’t.  This one was like four weeks!”

“So it was an eighth?  I see.  The school calendar has two quarters and then an eighth, probably followed by another quarter, and then possibly another eighth.  Makes perfectly good sense to me.”

“Besides, the teachers didn’t give us enough graded assignments this time.  We had like two grades in each class!”

“Two?   Only two graded assignments in each class the entire semester?”

“I don’t know exactly.  But it wasn’t a lot.”

“Probably ‘cause they only had half the time as the last quarter.”

“Yea.  Oh, and like the math tests had like 50 questions on them, and I could hardly finish.”

“That does seem like a lot of questions.”

“Yea.  And for every one you miss the teacher marks off 5 points from your grade!”

“Humm.  So if my math is correct, you could score as much as 250 points on that test?”

“What?”

“Well, if there are 50 questions and each one counts 5 points, it seems to me you could get a grade of 250.  If you did well on a test like that, it is bound to bring your grade up.  That’s a lot of points.”

“Whatever…”  she was getting ticked.

“Baby, four things:

1)       It’s not that big of a deal

2)      You need to keep up with your grades and figure out mid quarter where you’re struggling so that you’ll have time to pull them  up – two days just won’t do it

3)      You’re tired, you need to go to bed

4)      and I love you.”

Lisa would have checked her grades on a weekly basis.  This is partially my fault.  I guess we both learned a lesson this eighth, err, I mean quarter.

(Since writing this post, I think we may have actually pulled in a couple more A’s, like maybe four!  She probably got a 239 on her last math test.)

Sunday Post 100: Danny, Jesus’ grandpa

Great news in the Tanner household:  Guess who’s Jesus’ granddad this year in the annual Christmas pageant?  That’s me!

Well, actually, I’m not in the pageant.  But Michelle will be Mary and consequently, that makes me Jesus’ grandpa.

St. Timothy’s School has held a Christmas pageant for something like 40 years, and it’s a really big deal.  The first graders are the angels and shepherds.  The second graders are children around the world.  The thirds make up the chorus and the fourth graders are readers, bell players and fill all the parts.

There are only two female singing parts, Mary and the Angel.  Many of the girls tried out for both, but Miss Priss wanted to be Mary.  She said it wasn’t that big of a deal if she didn’t get it but that the angel had too many lines.  I think there are three.  I believe she just wanted to hold the baby Jesus.

In my opinion, the pageant is the most special extracurricular activity at the school all year-long.  It has real significance for me.

Lisa worked at the school and always helped coordinate the 4th grade readers in the pageant.  It was important to her to ensure that they knew their parts and spoke clearly in the microphoneless chapel at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.

In 2009, Stephanie played Mary in the pageant.  It actually fell the week Lisa had surgery to remove the tumor from her colon.  So the week before, the school planned a special dress rehearsal just for Lisa.  We were escorted in and sat on the front row where we had a clear view of our beautiful daughter.

The Christmas Carols that the kids sing are beautiful and moving in the small traditional sanctuary.  The sound bounces off the walls and encircles you.  It was a beautiful service and Stephanie was amazing.

As all of the angels and shepherds departed from the room, I put my arm around Lisa.  She was crying – I’m sure emotionally drained from all she had and was about to face.

When Lisa left school that afternoon, she told her mother, “They all think I’m going to die.”

“Well you’re not,” her mother assured her.

That was the last day Lisa stepped foot on St. Timothy’s campus, and they were right.

I think it was very fitting that Lisa got to see the Christmas pageant on her last day at a school she’d given so much to.

I’ve seen the pageant nine times.  I’ve seen DJ grow from a tiny blonde curly-headed angel to a 4th grade bell-ringer.  Stephanie wore the family costume Aunt Sallie brought back from South Africa for her 2nd grade debut as a “child around the world.”  She’s aged out now.

And this is it for Michelle – and she’s going out with a bang.

It’s time.  Lisa is gone, and the kids have aged out.  And I must let go.