Szyperski: The one by the wallWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
For some reason every time I start up our desktop computer, a lone photo pops up of my son’ and his classmates on their last day of kindergarten. Twenty kids are lined up against the wall of their elementary school, excited to take a break for summer before heading on to first grade. They’re all so different: different heights, different hair color, different skin color, different clothing and different dreams. Yet, they’re also all so much the same, joined together as members of the same classroom of little ones eager to take the world by the hand.
As school breaks for summer this year, those same kids are now gearing up for their last year in the building they have known as a home away from home for half their lives. Up next: fifth grade, final stop on the elementary school line.
The picture has appeared on my computer so many times during the past few years that I have started to get used to it. Even as the small children I first met five years ago quickly strayed further and further from their kindergarten selves, I became somewhat unfazed by the vision of them locked in 6-year-old innocence on my computer screen. Frequent exposure did its job and nearly made one of the most increasingly compelling photos I’ve taken become just another picture.
A late night and four little typed words slapped my sentimentality suddenly back into coherence, however. “Oh my, 5th graders” followed by a big heart emoticon popped up on my Facebook notifications shortly after midnight one night, grabbing my attention. As I clicked on it out of curiosity, the now 4-year-old picture flashed on my laptop, was punctuated by the written reality that those children once heading out of their first year of elementary school are about to be heading into their last.
Wow, one of those kids is mine.
Oddly, I’m not quite as struck by the sight of my own child freeze-framed in June 2009 as I am by the lot of them up against that wall. They are by no means the same group of kids who nervously entered kindergarten together five years ago. They’re all so different now. Everything is so different now.
Their appearance has changed. Their minds have changed. Their interests have changed. Their friends have changed. Their families have changed.
Some have moved on to other schools. Others have moved in and taken their place. One in particular has moved from no spoken English to no hint of being anything other than a native Ohioan.
Even many of their teachers have moved from nervous early years in the field to a much more confident, veteran level. They’ve gone from maiden names to married names, and from taking other people’s children on as their own to actually having children of their own. We’ve all just grown up together.
As the parents, we have no choice but to sit back, enjoy this ride and grow up whether we like it or not. It isn’t always easy to enjoy it. As “Oh my, fifth graders” popped up on my screen, so did the original comments from the day the picture was first posted four years ago. Judging from the emotion back then, it was hard for us to let go of that kindergarten year. How are we ever going to let go of elementary school altogether?
Yet, it’s not all just letting go and clinging to the past. It’s also looking forward and imagining the future. I remember wondering what might become of each of those little ones. Now we’re starting to know, and it’s a glorious thing. We are moving ever closer to getting to find out who they will be and what they will do with what they’ve each been given.
I can’t wait.
Shannon Szyperski and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.
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