Grad Night

How did a decade and a third slip by so quickly? My mom had been right: “Long days, short years.”

September 18, 2018 | | Headwaters Nest

Just a short few months ago, June-hot gymnasiums held parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles anticipating the very formal arrival of their Grade 8 grads to the rows of chairs. We nervously fanned ourselves with the agendas printed for the ceremony. Finally the music started, and the esteemed graduates walked in.

“You’re going to cry when you see them walk in – be ready,” my friends warned me. Too late – I had already cried. Big, drippy tears had sprung to my eyes. They didn’t arrive when I helped my son into his black suit, fixing the bow tie and adjusting his collar. That was fine, no tears then.

The biggest tears happened when we arrived at the school. Adrian took a ride with Grampa in his black Mustang – arriving in style. Pulling in a little later, his dad, my mom and I found them easily, along with Adrian’s Aunt Leontyne and his cousin Cole. Then, as we walked toward the front door of sweet little Princess Elizabeth Public School, Adrian’s home since kindergarten, there they were – all his friends and their families. Our innocent children transformed into near-adults before our eyes. That’s when the tears sprang. Giant lolly tears for all of the moms and dads and kids and families who had made it.

We’d made it through runny noses, lost lunch bags, lost shoes, hallway throw-ups, office visits and after-school panics when a child was temporarily missing. Long snowy walks to school. Obnoxious drop-off lines in tiny parking lots. We’d made it through good report cards and crummy ones and boring, unengaging ones with the wrong name selected from the drop-down comment templates. Playdates that went sideways. Family missteps and tragedies. We’d made it through wins and losses, the official and the unofficial. Teachers we loved and would miss, and good-hearted principals, and fun days and track days and Terry Fox days.

My tears were for the pride of this beautiful, awkward group of multigenerational people, all looking at our very brief past with these kids, and forward to their futures. How did a decade and a third slip by so quickly? My mom had been right: “Long days, short years.”

I wiped away those surprise, salty drops on my cheeks, and in we went. I was filled with excitement for the graduates. The ceremony was lovely and small, with lots of time to take photos. Snacks consisted of chips and veggie trays and cake and fruit. A first dance followed with a family member. I can report that it was awkward and sweet. Adrian wouldn’t make eye contact with me, until I joked it would be worse if he had to dance with his dad. The laugh broke the awkwardness and his eyes met mine. He is the same height as I am and will eclipse me soon.

Another rush of pride swept over me. I’m so proud of Adrian and his accomplishments. He was nominated for a few awards and took home the Rupert Lennox Sportsmanship Award, named after the lovely Mr. Lennox, one of Adrian’s favourite teachers. Mr. Lennox always had a smiley, humorous way about him, and loved to teach and learn. Adrian once challenged him on some information about our local aquifer. Presenting a new fact to Mr. Lennox meant Adrian took home two Jolly Rancher candies that day. We collected crumpled Canadian Tire money for Mr. Lennox’s sports equipment fund, to build up the inventory for the school. That award meant so much to me – that Adrian is good, and kind, and sees the humour and connections in life. Mr. Lennox died suddenly, just short of retirement, and it was a loss that shook the school.

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  • Graduation was indeed a significant turning point. Adrian has now had his first paid job babysitting friends’ kids. And he went off this summer to earn his Grade 9 geography credit ahead of schedule, travelling for two weeks with teachers and other students. We refreshed his room while he was away, and pinned up his high school schedule.

    Orangeville District Secondary School is the school I attended, and now Adrian will too. I couldn’t imagine this future when I went there. Best friends, classes, writing and art, and boyfriends preoccupied me. I had no thought for the future, a family, or a child who would roam the halls as I once did. Yet here we are, and I am joyful and hopeful my boy will find many Mr. Lennoxes, experience snowy walks and make wonderful friendships, even as I know he’ll probably also have days of brutal boredom as I once did.

    On orientation night, I showed my son where my old locker was, and we toured the large workshops, drama studio and art labs. The rooms smelled the same – wood shavings, sweaty kids, oil paints and turpentine. And the long halls, waiting for a crop of new students, would soon fill again with laughter and heartbreak, excitement and challenge.

    Fun Stuff to Do this Fall

    Terra Cotta Fall Fest

    Drop in on Fall Fest at Terra Cotta Conservation Area on the first two weekends of October from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be local food trucks, music and handcrafts inspired by nature at one of our favourite conservation areas. Some sample adult beverages await you, and for the kids there are bouncy castles, magic shows, giant family games, arts and crafts, and face painting. Hike the trails or hitch aboard a wagon for an interpretive ride through the forest. Adult $8.99; kids and seniors $5.99. Members and kids under 5 are free. This is a rain or shine event.


    Did you know the village of Creemore takes its name from the words croí mór, meaning “big heart” in Gaelic? Experience this big-hearted village – just the right size for your kids – on October 6 when the Horse, Hound & Harvest Parade takes over the main street. The Toronto North York Hunt Club rides through the village at 11 a.m., then everyone is welcome at the Gordon Feed and Seed lot for a blessing of the hounds and to meet the riders and animals – always a thrill for youngsters!

    Bolton Camp Update

    Bolton Camp opened its doors in 1922. For 75 years, this magical place was a popular destination for families from low-income areas of Toronto. Scores of people came to stay in cozy cabins and revel in natural beauty – both a slice of heaven and sought-after social support for children.
    Over time the camp fell into disrepair and shut down. The dream of restoration, however, lived on. In 2011, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority purchased the property and began developing a plan to repurpose the site as a community cultural hub. This year, the Caledon Challenger Baseball Program, Bolton Braves Baseball Association, Jays Care Foundation, Town of Caledon and TRCA formally opened the Challenger Baseball Diamond, an accessible facility specifically designed to meet the needs of youngsters with disabilities.

    Orangeville Cub Pack

    Looking to get the kids off the iPad? Orangeville Cub Pack is a Scouting program for kids age 7 to 10. Join any time of the year. Activities include camping, fishing, hiking, canoeing, wilderness survival, swimming, bicycle safety, nature study, first aid, games, carpentry, arts and crafts, and field trips. Weekly meetings take place year-round. Traditional Scouting Association of Canada, which emphasizes “old-fashioned” Scouting, is the oversight organization. Email [email protected] or call 519-940-4738 for information.

    Your vote matters!

    The next municipal election is Monday, October 22. In local elections citizens have the opportunity to vote for school board trustees. Trustees are a critical link between the community and the school board, representing parents and other constituents in their respective wards to provide a quality education to a diverse student body within an approved financial framework. It’s an important job, so it’s worth considering how you’ll vote. Visit your local municipal website to view candidate lists.

    About the Author More by Bethany Lee

    Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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