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Another school year ends, but the mementos remain forever

May 6, 2018

Some of the things I like about this time of the year are all the social activities that make for a buzz after a long winter. We can finally emerge from our homes and leave the safety of the silent cave, much like the great brown bears. Actually, some of us could possibly be mistaken for a grizzly. You know, once you take off that winter coat, it’s all downhill.

But it is great to be back in the swing of things; the activities that dominate us in May are usually end-of-the-school-year wrap-ups. Others come as acknowledgement or tributes to skills developed over the year, like banquets, reunions, and testimonials.

If you are the mother of a high school boy, don’t expect to know that any of these events are taking place. 

Sure, you will eventually find out, but this will be last-minute, typically five minutes before the event and about the time your body has doubled in size, attributed to bloating from all the salt you’ve eaten over the past month. And good luck getting into those shoes with your water-retention ankles.

All invitations to school events are either stuck in a drawer that hasn’t opened since the house was built, rolled up in a ball in someone else’s backpack or crammed into the food processer. I had a friend who found an invitation to her son’s sports banquet in the vacuum cleaner canister. How he knew months would pass before she used it is a mystery.

Things fall under the bed collecting dust bunnies whose eyes and faces obscure the words, “The pleasure of your company is requested...” The problem is not intentional; it’s just that boys at this age never tell their mothers anything. They also don’t want people to know that they actually have parents. I think they get this from watching too many episodes of “Star Trek, the Wrath of the Adult Species.”

High schools are well aware of this trend, and the two RSVPs out of the hundreds they have sent home with the kids are considered a landslide; schools will quickly adjust for the last-minute mob that will show up for the event.

I can remember being dragged to many athletic banquets for my older brother, only to realize he was receiving the top prize in hockey, lacrosse, baseball and Fourth Year Honors Program, How to Beat a Lie Detector. Our family didn’t know he even got out of bed until noon. 

That child who dressed like he lived in a box in an alley suddenly takes on rock-star status when you show up for many of these award ceremonies. It’s surprising, though, how many teachers just assumed he lived in a shelter.

In any case, it is a very narrow edge that these teenagers walk along in their last year of high school. 

On the one hand, they are ending an environment they know and love; some have likened it to a strain of bacteria leaving a petri dish and entering into strange new challenges, like dealing with something called FICA. 

Many of them are still trying to figure out the location of that path in the road that orators speak of at these events. They’ve never seen any path.

And parents too feel this narrow edge of ending an era of child rearing, as those kids become adults and parents face their own new challenges, like the tuition bill for the college that will begin in a few months. Parents’ feelings will vacillate between nostalgia and pleading with a complete stranger, “Just back the car over me now.”

Just hold onto those statues, papers, medals and letters; they will live in your home, attic, and garage until you get the call from that child demanding you hand over those wallet-sized high school photos.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.