It came as a total shock to me, yesterday, when we filed into the school for Chickadee’s “moving on ceremony” and I found myself tearing up a little.
I am not a terribly sentimental person under the best of circumstances. And as we already know, Monkey’s moving on ceremony didn’t exactly set me up to expect great things. But MAN OH MAN they put on the Ritz for the fifth graders, and it was impossible to stand there and not think about how my firstborn—who was once a baby with bright blue eyes and a cloud of hair standing up every which way with static—is now a young lady with piercing hazel eyes and a carefully arranged coif (“Mom! STOP TOUCHING MY HAIR!”), who is headed off to middle school next year.
My baby is in striking distance to teendom, and it’s both weird and wonderful. Also, it makes my eyes leak. Particularly when you play “Pomp and Circumstance” while making the kids file in two by two.
Otto was there with his big lens (oh, baby), and so Chickadee did her best to duck her head and look as annoyed as possible. Not that this stopped Otto from shooting a million and one pictures. (I, for one, am very much looking forward to sharing them with her prom date in a few years.) And of course my parents smiled and waved while she completely ignored us, because we’re all completely embarrassing, dontchaknow.
There were weighty-sounding speechlets (they cannot possibly be called actual speeches, abbreviated as they were) and the kids sang a couple of songs (Lean on Me! Tears!!) and then the conferring of Moving On Certificates began in earnest.
The principal called all the names, and listed off the included honors for each student. The kids were all receiving manila folders (fancy!) containing a moving on certificate and then whatever else they might be receiving. And they pretty much got certificates for EVERYTHING they had EVER participated in, which meant that even the kids who had been scraping by got certificates for 4H (welcome to the boonies, where 4H is a required class) and D.A.R.E. (just say no to drugs, and gimme my certificate). Kids like Chickadee and her friends all ended up getting over ten different “awards.”
[Aside: I was emailing with Chris yesterday after the ceremony and mentioned that Chickadee had gotten fifteen awards (when explaining why the ceremony was so long). Chris responded with “Fifteen seems a little excessive.” Gee, YA THINK? I toyed with mailing back that I was offended that she did not sense the EXTRA SUPER SPECIALNESS of MAH PRESHUS GENIUSBABY, but decided I couldn’t even type that with a straight face and let it go.]
We sat and listened and clapped and I’d be lying if I told you that it didn’t please me just a TEENY bit that the principal had to stop and gulp some extra air while getting through Chickadee’s list of honors (MAH PRESHUS!), bogus though many of them may be, and when it was (finally) all over, we went to the reception, where our darling children were being stuffed full of cake and lemonade.
All around us, parents and children were hugging, and we… couldn’t find Chickadee. Or Pixie (her BFF). After some searching, we found them huddled over their folders in a classroom, comparing their certificates and laughing hysterically.
“I got FIFTEEN certificates!” bellowed Chickie, waving them in our general direction, once she noticed us.
“I got SIXTEEN!” joined Pixie, and then both girls dissolved in giggles again.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“Her sixteenth one doesn’t COUNT,” Chickadee told me, between giggles. “She got one for being part of the SuperFly Dancers
SuperFly Dancers is kind of a big deal at this school, but it’s also, um, not something that many of the better students are involved with as a general rule. “I didn’t know Pixie did SuperFly Dancers,” I mused, and this prompted fresh gales from the girls, who were now staggering against each other for support.
“I DON’T!” squealed Pixie.
Oh. Whoops! So, yeah, maybe a little excessive when you start giving out awards to kids who haven’t even participated in said activities.
[The best part is that Otto was snapping away when Pixie went up to be recognized, and we were sitting far enough back that I hadn’t been able to see this, at the time, but his pictures tell a MARVELOUS story: The principal is reading off her accomplishments and she’s standing there, neutral. Then he says “SuperFly Dancers” and Pixie’s face changes, just a little, to mild surprise. BUT, off to the side, Pixie’s teacher’s face goes through a hilarious set of contortions as you go through Otto’s pictures—you can actually watch his eyebrows go up, up, UP with confusion. I sent the pictures to Pixie’s mom and she mailed back, “Yes, I guess he was just as surprised as we were!”]
Swan wandered past and I gave her a hug and wished her hearty congratulations. “How many awards did you get?” demanded Chickadee.
“Seventeen,” said Swan, mildly, before meandering off again, one presumes to eat some more cake and ignore her parents.
I looked for Nightingale and gave her a big hug. She’s back to school and in good health (so far), and the girls really haven’t been able to repair their friendship, which saddens me, but I was happy to see her there and told her so. Her mother had brought her a large bouquet of flowers, and Nightingale plucked one from the bunch and gave it to Chickadee. She accepted it with a smile. I hope this is what Chickadee remembers, years from now, and not the months where the two were up and down and back and forth and made me really understand the term “frenemies.”
In a day and a half, my daughter will be done with elementary school. For various reasons, only a few of her friends will be going on with her to her middle school, next year. Nightingale will be attending a different public school; Swan is going to private school; things are changing in more ways than one. I doubt she’ll even find herself with a folder of fifteen awards again, though who knows. Yesterday she was too busy with her cake and her friends and her plans to pay much attention to me or her grandparents, and I saw that closer-than-I-think future where I’m a fixture on the periphery, rather than part of her main landscape.
They are indeed moving on. So maybe I get a little teary. In a good way.
When it gets too overwhelming, I think about Pixie—geeky little Pixie, who along with my daughter acted like she’d won the lottery when they both won scientific calculators at a math competition earlier this year—and her SuperFly Dancers certificate. It’s hard not to smile, then.