absolutely, and without debate, there has been in our house one recurring theme in the chapter called “high school.”
it would be that phenomenon in which light shines from under the crack of the bedroom door till 3, then 4, and sometimes, ’round 5 (A!M! lest we be unclear), when the first rays of sun begin to dance amid the plugged-in watts of the desk lamp.
and even then there is no clicking off that fool light.
it is a cultural oddity that pulls the grownups out of bed, groggy, at wit’s end, wondering when, oh when, will this cruel and unusual punishment come screeching to an end.
you can stand at said bedroom door, and plea, and scrunch your face, and beg for mercy: “honey, PLEASE, go to bed.”
but no, the typing continues. the boy is hard at work. pounding thoughts, meeting deadlines.
and you, poor grownup, tired grownup, grownup who will wobble through the whole next day under cloak of stupor, you will grow accustomed to this high-school theme: the all-nighter that would not end.
and so, as if a 21-barrel salute to the end of that sweet sad sorry sobering chapter, the boy i love declared somewhere deep inside that he’d go out as he’d carried on all along: all-nighter on the last night of high school.
why, had you thought otherwise? had you fooled yourself into thinking this ONE time that ol’ eight-page paper would be typed, stapled, turned in one sweet minute before the schoolbell clanged time-out, game’s-end?
and so it was, after weeks and weeks of dropping hints (nabokov? checked in with nabokov any time recently?), the dear boy, breaths away from graduation, sat down at 9th hour to begin to type. to see how close he’d come to driving mama over the brink, into the seas of madness saved for those who set expectations foolish high.
and as if to amp the fun, he retreated from his room, settled in full view, just off the kitchen, where i could watch the lines unfold, where i could watch him type his way toward high school conclusion.
look ma, he seemed to type, i can dash off eight pages while you polish off your nighttime bowl of popped and fluffy corn. i can squeak in under the wire, while you witness the whole event.
alas, i could not stay awake past page five. and so i climbed to bed, tossed and drifted to a foggy-not-yet-sleeping place.
i had implored, “wake me at the end, i want to be there for the final period of high school.”
and so, when at 11:53 he wandered by the precipice of my mattress, stood ever still, and whispered, “hey mom,” i barely startled. just rolled over and uttered, “huh?”
could i give it all a read, he wondered, this paper that dissected four plays by nabokov, this paper due third period on the last half day of high school?
without thought or grumble, i ripped back the sheet, pointed my stiff self toward the stairs and down i climbed. i read, i turned small letters into caps, i marveled (or at least i think i did, as sleep was clearly fogging up my eyes and brain).
i slapped the boy upon the back, returned to stairs and up to slumber.
when i awoke this morn, i found the eight pages, printed out, in a folder, tucked one last time in backpack. and off my boy loped, high school all wrapped up in one last all-nighter.
so this is it, the hardest chapter yet, now writ.
the boy who started high school with an undetected fracture straight across his thigh bone, the boy who set out to get straight As, to take the hardest classes offered, he struggled and survived. he learned much, and so did i.
he set out to test his arc of limitations, as emerson once challenged. and hanging on the post beside his bed, five medals, bronze to gold. though the silver that he wanted never came.
he found three close friends, in a sea of 1100. and a boat full of “brothers.”
he has cried in my arms, and raised his fist in triumph.
in the end, there will be no valedictory speech, no fireworks to light the sky.
but in past weeks there have trickled in emails from teachers, tracing back to freshman year, remarking on what a kid he is, and how much he will be missed.
in the end, i’ve realized, it is the typed words from souls who’ve earned his respect over long semesters, over years, that constitute the prize of prizes.
the boy i love, the boy inclined to type all night, he’s triumphed in the end. and i could not be more proud.
nor love him any wilder.
here’s to a summer of no worries, no tests, no papers.
just joy and laughter, and the sweet glory of the journey shared, straight up to the last sure dot on the page.
–the end, sweet will, the end–
this one’s mostly just to record the moment, lest anyone ever debate that the end of high school quietly lulled to closure. there are souls all around this time of year, wrapping up chapters hard and not-so-hard. it is the time of year for looking back, then launching forward. to ends that mark beginnings. tell me what headlines your end of schoolyear, start of summer this time round?