The weeper in Room 14
"What's wrong?" his teacher asked.
"It's the end of school, and I'll never see my friends again." He raised his head only long enough to say it before collapsing into his desk again.
Technically, it wasn't the end of school. It was merely the second to last day, and I'm glad I wasn't in Big Guy's classroom on the official final day to see what happened then. This was wrenching enough.
"Oh my God, he's going to make me cry," I said to another mom.
"I know," she replied, tears at the corner of her eyes.
"They have no idea how hard this is for us, too," the teacher said, choking momentarily. It'd never occurred to me before that teachers feel pangs when faced with letting go. I suppose that's how you can tell the really good ones - they invest enough of themselves in the children to feel something when it's time to let them go.
You forget what it's like to be 6, when the two months of summer when you won't see your friends seem like forever. You don't remember what it was like in first grade, when the two dozen children you'd spent a mere 10 months with seem like life-long friends. Then one day, you're volunteering in a class on what's supposed to be a fun party day and you're reminded.
For these kids, endings are even more poignant because you never know if the friend who sat next to you in California will be in Kentucky, Carolina or Kansas by fall. Or maybe you'll be the one on the move. In Big Guy's class, people started disappearing May 7, the earliest possible day they could leave and still get credit for the full school year. Empty desks already surrounded the little boy who could not quit crying.
In the end, I didn't feel sorry for him. I was envious of his ability to unabashedly say, "I hurt." That's something else we forget by the time we're adults.
"Do you think Big Guy will be in the class with me next year?" he asked me toward the end of the morning, because any parent will do in a fix.
"Could be," I said noncommittally. "Are you still going to be at Fort Irwin?"
"Big Guy's still going to be here, too. So even if you're not in the same class, you'll see each other sometime at recess, right?"
He nodded again, brightening a bit. "Hey, yeah. That's right. We will get to see each other next year."
"I'll like that, too," Big Guy added.
Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.