[As our son, Benn, was graduating kindergarten, my husband and I had no idea that one day he would be an enthusiastic agricultural student at Clemson University, racking up 4.0 averages during his first four semesters. And where did he get his love of farming? (Don’t look at me.) From Arnold Ziffel, of course.]
Green Acres is the Place to Be
As the dog days of summer overtake me, I like to reflect on the pleasant, yet unusual way my summer began – at a kindergarten graduation. Participating in the pomp and circumstance of five- and six-year-olds engaged in their last hurray of innocence is an activity enjoyed mainly by young, enthusiastic parents, and wise, seasoned grandparents.
Unfortunately for my husband and me, who had our final (and this time I mean it) son when we were 40-something, we’ve found we no longer identify with most of the parents of our son’s peers. Yet we are still a bit skittish about the unfolding revelation that we have a lot in common with their grandparents. Stuck here in no-man’s land, we’re sort of hanging out in the great abyss between not fitting in with one group, and not wanting to fit in with the other.
As is the way with such social outcasts, we slipped silently into the excited crowd, taking our seats in the rows lining the playground-turned-auditorium. We sat down amidst parents tugging and prodding their other children and wondering aloud if they’d remembered to do this or that for the big party they had planned afterwards. I wondered silently if I’d remembered to take my Metamucil that morning, and if McDonald’s would do for our graduation dinner.
At the appointed hour, I heard the pitter-patter of growing feet take to the stage, soon followed by a throng of angelic, off-key voices singing, “I can spell dog, d-o-g. I can spell log, l-o-g. I can spell hog, h-o-g. But I can’t spell hippopotamus.” But I only saw one face…back row center.
Bennett had decided, completely on his own, to show up in the lives of two aging parents nearly six years before. The advanced ages of his parents makes Benn “a little different” from his classmates. For example, his favorite television show is the same as ours – Green Acres – although Stephen and I have a particular fondness for Mr. Haney while Benn is a devoted Arnold Ziffel fan.
Na-na-na, na, na
Benn wasn’t in the upper echelon of his class academically, but he knows all the words to Hey, Jude. He also knows that rock ‘n roll is the music of the gods, and that the crap he hears blaring from the idiot’s car at the gas station is…well, crap. On morning radio, Benn knows Bob’s voice from Tom’s voice, but he isn’t quite sure why I push the off button so often. Benn knows that George Bush is the president of the United States, but he’s still grappling with the difference between John Kerry and that tall, stiff guy on mommy’s second favorite show, The Munsters.
Every evening, Benn slips into our bedroom, and crawls up between Stephen and me for a little snuggling – a ritual that I know will pass away all too soon. After the proverbial comment, “Oh look, a thorn between two roses,” we all settle in for a little television watching together. As bedtime approaches, and eyelids droop, Benn kisses us both goodnight, pulls the covers up to our chins and quietly turns off the television before closing the door behind him. What he does after that, who the hell knows.
As I see it, Benn has the benefit of having parents who don’t sweat the small stuff. And we have the benefit of knowing the importance of savoring the small stuff.
In youth, parents are constantly looking forward. They look forward to the time when their children will sleep through the night, be completely potty trained, eat all their vegetables, and ride a two-wheeler. In old age, parents look back on the memories of a lifetime, albeit filtered through the sands of time for content. Stephen and I are in that phase in life where we’re still pushing forward, but we’ve taken the occasional glimpse over our shoulders. We understand that what seemed like a long hard road in parenting was but a moment that passed away all too quickly. Life isn’t a rousing game of Survivor, like we thought, but an intense game of Beat the Clock.
All too soon, the graduation ceremony wound down. The woman in front of me, hoarse from all her intent cheering for her “perfect” graduate and constant yelling at her younger daughter who ran amuck in the aisle, occasionally flipping her Sunday-best dress up over her head for good measure (good luck with that one), stood for one final ovation. I remained seated, crying. It was my final role as a parent at a kindergarten graduation. It had come and gone all too quickly.
Copyright © 2019 by Patra Taylor Bucher. All rights reserved.
This column first appeared in the August 2004 issue of The Charleston Mercury.
Here’s more family humor from one of the Charleston Mercury columnists, Patra Taylor.