Today was the last day of school for the summer. It is a joyful thing for students and teachers alike, this last day, marking the beginning of summer and the end of homework as it does.
It is a bittersweet day too, as today marks the last time K will walk through those doors as a student. The last time he will sit in a classroom with (mostly) the same group of kids he has been with since his very first day of kindergarten at the ripe old age of 4. And the last time he’ll be at the same school as some of his closest friends.
Eight years ago, I took what would become the first of many photos that look almost exactly the same, except the kids are taller in each one.
At the end of K’s very first day of school ever, when I asked him how his day was, he chattered on and on in that funny way he had back then of garbled words and dropped syllables and every word starting with “d” and helped by plenty of sign language to say what his hugely delayed verbal speech couldn’t get across.
“Friend!” he said/signed. “Friend! Friend! Friend!” (which at the time came out verbally as “Deh!”, but the sign that accompanied it was crystal clear.)
When I asked him if he knew his new friend’s name, he just shrugged and shook his head as if such trivial details didn’t matter. (Apparently, they didn’t, for it took him almost 2 entire weeks before he even remembered to find out.)
Every morning, we walked to school and I kissed him goodbye at the gate to the kindergarten yard. He was so small, the latch was far beyond his capabilities, yet almost daily he would try to climb the gate to gain the leverage necessary to undo it so that he could hurry in and play with his friends. Two years later, he graduated to the grade 1-3 yard and it was B who eagerly tried climbing the gate to open that latch and get to where her people were playing.
He loved that yard. She loved that yard, too. That gate, black metal and oh-so-tall compared to such tiny little people, is the doorway to so many memories.
It has changed very little over the past 8 years. They switched which side it opened on a few years back, and it is a little worse for wear around the bottom where the snow piles up in the winter. The grassy part of the yard that was an mud pit every single spring was paved over one year, much to my dismay.
The fence, too, has changed not a bit, though the greenery planted around it has grown taller.
And the bike racks haven’t changed one bit.
The yard seems like a cheerless place from this angle, I must admit. What these photos don’t reveal is that two entire sides of the school are surrounded by lush green lawns and parkland with an additional pair of structures, a soccer field, basketball nets, and other goodies. The school adjoins a park as well, and they take advantage of it often, especially the skating rink in winter, and it isn’t unusual to find classes exploring the woods and the ravine I blog about so frequently.
But it is true that, on first glance as you enter the premises, it is a vast desert of concrete ground and iron railings.
So last night, in honour of the last day of school for the year and K’s last day at that school ever, we made it pretty. B was a more than willing accomplice, and so we snuck onto the school grounds long after the last bus had pulled out of the lot and the last teacher had gone home, and we did this:
As it happens, one of B’s friends was out for a walk with her parents and she stopped to see what we were doing. When her parents carried on walking, she stayed behind and offered moral support.
This morning, I just happened to bring the camera to school (how could I not after such an epic evening!) and we delighted in watching kids petting the rainbow sleeves on the bike racks and batting at the flowers and making the gate’s spirals going “sproing” one colour after another.
It made me smile to see so many children taking joy in our little bit of silliness. And it made me laugh to see how many parents didn’t even notice until their children pointed it out to them.
And as for that gate, that well-used and well-loved gate… seeing it piled round with its daily accoutrement of backpacks and jackets topped by a sproingy rainbow that kept getting played like a guitar? That was the most perfect bit of silliness of all.