Today marked the end of an era.
It was my oldest child’s last day of elementary school.
It was the last year (probably until her junior year of high school) that all three of my children will be students at the same school.
I had the privilege of volunteering in my kids’ classrooms on this momentous day. I enjoyed the precious last hours of a chapter that is now closed in the life of our family and for many other families I know. I snapped a few sweet photos with each of my kids and some of their best buddies.
All the while a lump in my throat would come and go and my eyes would begin to moisten.
Keep it under control. That was my plan.
As the end of the day grew near, I picked up a broom and dustpan and kept myself busy sweeping up pieces of cereal, dry pasta, candy, and cookie pieces that had fallen to the floor in my son’s classroom during their game time. I took some deep breaths and tried to reign in the wave of emotions that were washing over me.
Then it was time.
The principal made an announcement over the speakers. It was time for the fifth graders to take their last walk out the doors. I came out with my son’s 3rd-4th grade class and lined the hallway with them and all the other classes. We prepared ourselves to high-five the fifth graders as they made their way around the second floor before heading downstairs to high-five the primary grade classrooms and staff.
As soon as I saw my daughter’s fifth grade class walk out of their room, I noticed that most of them (boys as well as girls) had already been crying. I tried to hold back my waterworks, but it was like a cracked dam ready to burst at any moment. I stood next to my son’s teacher, who was evidently having a similar reaction.
The fifth graders began their memorable trek, and I watched. The student at the head of the group went to pre-school with my daughter. As I held out my hand to slap the hand of each student, I looked into their faces. I remembered many of them as kindergarten and first grade students, when I sat with them in the hallways and helped them learn how to read. Most of these kids I had interacted with over the last six years when I volunteered in my daughter’s classroom and around the school.
I congratulated them, smiling as best I could, even though at times it was all I could do to not break down and bawl. This was goodbye. Most of these kids, whom I have invested in and watched grow so much, I might not see again, or at least not the same way.
And then I saw her. My daughter. The moment passed so quickly. Just like so many moments do.
A few moments later, it was over. The fifth graders had been dismissed – for the day, for the year, forever. And a couple moments after that, all the other grades were dismissed.
On my way out, I was overcome by the weight of this experience. I was able to hug a few other moms and staff members on my way out of the building. And when I got home with the kids, I knew I needed to get by myself and let loose. I told the kids I was going to my room to have an ugly cry.
My daughter, my now middle schooler, wanted to join me. She was not really sad like me. She still felt like it wasn’t real yet, like tomorrow she would just get up and go to school like any other day.
She sat with me while I cried hard. There were no words, only grief.
Things would never be the same again.
Not bad, but different.
Once I’d been able to release most of my tears, my daughter spoke wise and comforting words. She compared this season of life to getting used to a certain view from the window. Then when you move, the view changes, but you grow used to that new view. Then you’ll move again, and you’ll go through the same process. And so on. And each time the view gets better. That’s how she predicts life will go when she transitions to middle school, then to high school, then to college.
We snuggled and giggled.
I love my big, little girl.
Goodbye to this chapter that has closed. Goodbye to my three children attending elementary school together.
Hello to you, new chapter of life. I don’t know much about what will be written in you yet, but I know Who is writing you, and I trust Him completely. I know you will be good. You probably won’t be easy, and you will likely include pain and trials that I could never imagine or wish, but I know that you will also be filled with blessings and mercy I don’t deserve. Just as I grieve the chapter before you, I embrace you and welcome you.