I’ve been explaining monsters out of our house for years. To emphasize they’re not there, I get a flashlight and shine it underneath their beds, and always, always, close their closet doors. Tight. After the monsters come the questions about robbers and murderers. How, they ask, do we know we will be safe? Oh babe, we live in a VERY safe community, we have an alarm system, and I wake up when a pin drops.
Don’t worry; you’re safe. It’s my job to keep you safe. Sleep tight.
When I heard the breaking news about a gunman in Connecticut in an elementary school, I did what most people did. I turned off the news, and have been careful not to listen to it since in the company of my children.
Because some monsters can’t be explained, and some crimes are so heinous they can’t be considered.
I know I can’t shelter them forever, someday they will learn about this unfathomable tragedy, but every day that goes by that they are naive to these monsters is another day of innocence, another day of childhood the way it should be, wherein I just need to explain the monsters underneath the bed, and not the ones that walk into elementary schools with semi-automatic weapons.
Meanwhile, I’m piecing together my response for the day they hear of this tragedy, the response that is supposed to alleviate both their fears and mine. The one wherein I explain our country’s laws against handguns, and the resulting lower murder rates, and the distance we are from Connecticut, and so on. The response where I emphasize that this will never happen to them.
Or so I hope.
Because of course it could.
So as I sat in my daughter’s Christmas concert yesterday, the one where she dressed up as a penguin who encounters Santa Clause after his sleigh has crash landed, the only thing I could think about was how lucky I was. The only thing she worried about before going to sleep the previous night was forgetting her lines.
Another day of innocence.
I’m striving for perspective: it’s an elementary school graduation. But still, it’s a milestone. And apparently, it warrants manicures and hairdo’s, and a dress ordered months in advance. If you are thinking that is way over the top, I share your sentiment. When I graduated from elementary school, I spent hours scraping gum off of the bottom of my desk on the last day, and then high-tailed it out of there with scarcely a backwards glance. But the times they are a changing.
Tomorrow, my daughter is graduating from grade seven, and in the fall will start high school. She asked me yesterday if I was going to cry. I hadn’t thought of that, and made a mental note to stuff a few Kleenex into my bag alongside my camera, my lip-chap and stockpile of granola bars.
Truthfully, I haven’t given this graduation much attention. It is hitting us at a busy time, in the middle of moving. By that, I mean I’m weighed down by the boxes I have yet to pack. But that is fairly typical; if it’s not one thing, it’s another. On her first day of kindergarten I was in the hospital, having given birth to her youngest sister the day before.
So it’s a vaguely familiar feeling, this milestone coming at a slightly inconvenient time. And now, on the verge of the pomp and ceremony of tomorrow, and new tomorrows, I am wrestling with my feelings, which are two-parts joyful, one part excited, and one part trepidatious.
Of course, I’m proud. She is an enthusiastic student with a penchant for fun and fashion. She speaks her mind and has a head for reason when all about her (in particular, yours truly) are losing theirs. She’s solid, independent and kind, mostly. She is growing as fast mentally as she is physically; we are eye-level now, but not for long. I more than love her: I like her.
She was my test-case baby; as my oldest child, I cut my parenting teeth on her. My expectations were sky-high in her early years, and it’s taken a while for them to come down to earth. My other two have reaped the benefit of my more relaxed and realistic parenting approach. But Grace had to weather the storm, not that it’s over. Even now, as the first to go to high school, I will falter and flail alongside her before I get my footing. The next time around it won’t feel so precarious. Such is the state of her existence. I’m sure it has shaped her, somehow.
And yet, despite my own parental shortcomings, I have always had utter and complete confidence in her, perhaps too much at times. Still, with high school approaching, and the terrible rumours that accompany high school life, I’m mostly confident she will make wise decisions, but a tiny part terrified that she will be trapped by the pitfalls that will confront her.
Like a mother bird, nudging her baby out of the nest, I’m holding my breath, hoping that through all of the lectures and diatribes I’ve imparted, somewhere in there is a manual on how to fly.
Tomorrow, our children will graduate in a gymnasium shrouded in Moroccan splendor, thanks to months of preparation from dedicated mothers who want this day to stand apart from the rest of their elementary school days. In the midst of busy lives, we are taking a day to celebrate. To account for their achievements. To wish them the very best of luck from the every fiber of our beings that they will continue on their skyward flight pattern, up and away.
Fly, baby, fly.
It took seven minutes for the tickets to sellout online.
From the moment the date was announced, there was a collective clamoring for babysitters. The emails have been flying around, fast and furious, about what to wear. Once the women were sorted, the emails sailed around once again, this time asking whether tuxedos or simply shirts would suffice for the menfolk. Then began the chatter about the before parties, and for those with more stamina, the after parties.
Thrown in to the regular hectic schedule of shuttling children to activities and feeding them their vegetables this week, a rush on pedicures at Four Seasons Nail Salon, and an unusual amount of coiffed women walking the hallways.
(I have even made my own feeble attempts at beauty, to be honest. I exfoliated my elbows in the shower yesterday, and last night I slathered self-tanner on my legs, which triggered my eczema to kick in at around 2 am. Instead of getting out of bed to find my cream I scratched and tore at my skin like a madwoman, and woke up with an angry rash all over my calves, and orange palms. My elbows, however, are very smooth and dazzling, so I’m hoping people will look no further.)
The only thing that can whip our little elementary school into a frenzy of this magnitude, and make me worried about my so-white-I-look-sickly skin, is the Fundraising Gala, which is being held tonight at a very generous parent’s swank home. Donations to be auctioned off have been gathered, the tents have been built, the caterer has been dicing all day. Typically the hottest thing on the auction block is the class art projects that our children have laboured over. Tonight, these will be auctioned off at an enormous expense, and this year it is my mission to not get drunk and monopolize, or perhaps sit on, the donation sheet. (If I got out more, and experienced open bars on a regular basis, I would not be like a kid in a candy store with the free booze. This I know.)
It’s not the Academy Awards, but let’s face it, for me it’s as close as I get, which makes it all the more exciting. I am looking forward to drinking champagne and eating tiny little quiches that will burn my fingers and leave spinach stuck in my teeth. I am looking forward to laughing about nothing in particular and not worrying about the soccer carpool. I am looking forward to finding a corner to dance in, although there is no dancing advertised (I scrutinized the invitation). We will do all of this and raise funds for our children’s school, an investment in their future, hoping it will make things a bit easier for teachers, and make their excellent school even better.
The elevated atmosphere around our school and the hype in the air reminds me of the formals my university held every year at a local hotel, way back when I was a student. The big difference being, of course, there were no children to care for the next day while nursing that hangover. But that’s tomorrow. Tonight, we party.