Wednesday, June 1, 2011

RemembeRed: Taking Center Stage

This week's memoir prompt from The Red Dress Club was to write about a graduation. It could be any graduation.

Taking Center Stage

We were twenty minutes early and the church basement was already standing room only. Mothers made sure the graduates had clean faces. Grandmothers were trying to keep younger siblings in their seats. Fathers checked to make sure the batteries in their cameras and camcorders were fully charged.
            “When it going to start?” Owen whined.
            “In about 20 minutes.” I told him.
            “Why did we have to get here so early?”
            “So we could get a place to sit. If we had come any later, there wouldn’t be any seats left. Be patient. James sat through your preschool graduation, not to mention more soccer games than I can count.”
            “I know,” he sulked.
Two years ago it was James who squirmed impatiently in the metal folding chair waiting for Owen to graduate from Children’s Ark Preschool. The school had been a part of our lives for three years. The first time I dropped Owen off, it took me twenty minutes to wrestle James back into his car seat. He was two years old then and it was the first time Owen was going somewhere without him. He didn’t want to leave the school’s brightly colored d├ęcor, sand table, play kitchen and indoor play structure. James wanted to stay and play with his big brother and all the other children.
            Our family fell in love with the small program that I stumbled upon while searching the internet for preschools. I had driven by the Lutheran church a thousand times and never noticed the small yellow and red sign that read Children’s Ark Preschool. I never knew that little gem was there. The boys and I visited the school and I had a very strong good feeling that this was the right school for us. It was nurturing without being stifling and stimulating without being overly structured. The children said grace at snack time, participated in a Christmas pageant, and had discussions about the gentle and loving nature of God.
Before graduation.
            The graduation ceremony was in two parts. In the first part the children performed songs about the seasons. Afterward, the children would put on their graduation caps and capes to receive their diplomas. While James’ group sang a song about summer, he kept his fingers in his mouth. To anyone who doesn’t know James, it looked like the nervous habit of a shy kid. But James has never been shy. He has always been happiest in the middle of a crowd of children. 
            “Why is he doing that?” I wondered until I remembered him showing me his wiggly tooth earlier in the day. I didn’t think much about it at the time. He was only four years old. I figured that wiggly tooth would wiggle in his head for a weeks.
            But moments later, he pulled the tooth out and stared at it. At first I was the only one who noticed the little boy center stage who had stopped singing. Everyone else of course, was watching their own children or grand children.
When the song ended he whispered to the director of the school, “Mrs. Rogers, I lost my tooth!” he held the baby tooth out to her.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the director announced. “We’ve lost a tooth!”
James showed off his new Jack-o-lantern grin and giggled madly. His transition from little kid to big kid began center stage to a standing ovation. 

After graduation.