Kindergarten graduation. Complete with mortar boards and diplomas. Audience packed with parents, grandparents and friends. What’s more, shout-outs for certain students when their name is called to be awarded the kindergarten completion certificate.
(Squeezing my voice into its best Walter Brennan-like drawl:) “In my day, we didn’t have kindergarten gradge-ee-ations. When you said somebody gradge-ee-ated you wuz talking about high school.
“Heck, in my day, you didn’t even have to go to kindee-garden.”
Sorry. That crazy voice kept echoing through my head as I sat there in the second row, soaking up and savoring every moment of my daughter’s final day in kindergarten. Best way to get rid of it was to share it here with you.
Of course, that’s assuming you have any idea who Walter Brennan was. He played the archetypal sidekick old geezer perhaps best known for Westerns and once-popular TV shows. (And please pardon my mention of a man who apparently was a bigot, according to many historical accounts.)
When I tell people that in my day, you weren’t required to attend kindergarten — heck, I didn’t even know what it was — I get that, “Not only is he old but he’s losing his memory” look, at least from the people who bother to listen.
It’s true. My first day in school, the first day I left the shelter of my then-stay-at-home mother, was the first day of First Grade.
No nursery school, no pre-school, no Pre-K and no “play dates” for that matter. (Wait — is that violins I hear starting up in the background?)
It was a memorable scene on the lawn, outside the chapel where the kindergarten graduation had taken place, as parents and other kinfolk (Walter!) snapped pictures and presented flowers and “Congratulations Graduate” balloons.
My wife and I attended our daughter’s graduation with my own mother and her husband.
As I stood there, I had one of those transported back in time feelings (the ones you only get as you grow older). I remembered a sunny June day, long ago.
There was a reception in the garden outside the small high school I had graduated from. Parents, other relatives and graduates — boys in navy sports coats and the school tie; girls in white dresses — posed for photos and shared goodbyes with their classmates.
We’ve since learned that those promises to remain friends forever and keep in touch are nearly impossible to keep. But they’re so vital and so real at the time. I later figured out it was the only way you could break off these relationships, friendships nurtured by daily shared experiences.
We never spoke or saw each other again — at least until we discovered Facebook. But that’s another story.
But these kindergarten children … Many would return to the same school for First Grade in just a couple of months. But each class would be shaken, stirred and redistributed. These year-long friendships and alliances would be filed away. It was time to move on.
But there would always be the memories, and the hope of crossing paths once again:
“We’ll always have recess … ” to paraphrase a true Hollywood legend, Humphrey Bogart.