I can usually tell it’s June by all the sighing happening across social media. As in: “Final concert of elementary school. Sigh.” or “Last playgroup meeting of the year. Sigh.” or “Last game with this team. Sigh.” In a Facebook post about her son heading to middle school, my friend DeLauné didn’t bother with the sighing, instead going straight for the jugular: “Who knew raising a child had so many goddamn goodbyes in it?”
It’s understood that DeLauné and every other parent who gets emotional about moving on knows how blessed they are to even be attending The Last Concert or The Last Game or a party that celebrates The Last Day of Preschool. But it still doesn’t mean it’s easy. Especially when you have to attend events that involve young children singing. Is there anything sweeter? Anything that can rip your heart out faster?
But here’s a thought, brought to you by your favorite food-blogging denialist: At least this time of year, we are generally aware of all these Last Times and Goodbyes. At least we take the time to celebrate them. I think the only thing more emotional than, say, walking your kids to the bus stop for the last time after walking them to the bus stop every morning for seven freaking years, is not being aware that it’s the last time. Of not being in the moment to psychologically earmark it, to let it seep into the forever consciousness so that someday you can tell yourself “I never took that time for granted.” Because I think if somebody had told me it was the last time I was going to hit the local playground with my girls — whenever that day was, I can’t remember! — then maybe I wouldn’t get all weepy every time I drive by it and watch a new generation of parents push their toddlers on swings right next to where my daughters mastered their monkey bars.*
A little side story, bear with me here:
A few months ago, we took the kids to watch Jeremy Denk, premier concert pianist, director of a chamber orchestra called St. Martin in the Fields, and the author of an upcoming book, edited by yours truly, Mr. Dinner: A Love Story, Andy Ward. Denk and his group played four pieces, each with multiple movements, and the girls decided they like the one by Bach more than the one by Stravinsky, which, according to Phoebe sounded like the soundtrack to an action film. All in all, it was a lovely introduction to this kind of cultural event. I was glad I fought against all the excuses to leave the kids at home, glad I adhered my self-imposed rule of “When you have a chance to see someone who’s the best at something, even if you know nothing about that someone or what they do, you go.”
Anyway, right before the orchestra performed, the director of the program came on stage to introduce them. We were in for a real treat, he told us, before closing with the obligatory request not to record anything. Then he said something else I loved. “Turn off your cell phones. Give yourself over to the music,” he said. “Let it take you somewhere.”
This has probably been said to me (and to you) too many times to count, but for whatever reason, his words stayed with me way beyond the concert. I’ve been calling them up at every Last Event of the year: the seventh grade awards ceremony, the middle school band/choir/orchestra show, the cello recital, the piano recital, even the last soccer game of the season. Sometimes I get so caught up in recording things for the future that I forget to fully partake in the now. And the now is so amazingly awesome!
So a call to arms: Let’s put down the phones and fully give ourselves over to all this celebration and ceremony. Let’s let it take us somewhere, even though where it takes us can be tough to think too hard about. I’m sure our future selves will thank us.
(**Here, I’ll conveniently gloss over the slow mind-numbing that resulted from years of marathon swing sessions.)
PS: Stay tuned for information on the photo credit. I found this image a while ago and new I’d need it for something!