Senior Year: The Year of Lasts
Their offspring become strong, they grow up in the open field;
they leave and do not return to them.
~ Job 39:4
I wrote this blog article on February 15, 2020. On March 13, 2020, our Governor announced that school would be shut down, statewide, until March 30 due to COVID-19. They never opened back up.
The virus had been picking up steam and there were rumblings about schools shutting down so as I told Makayla to have a good day, I commented that this could be her last day of school. Unfortunately, I was right. So, the last last I wrote about, her Senior Homecoming, really was her last last of her Senior year. I debated on not even posting this article to my blog, but now that a year has passed, I decided to go ahead and post it with some additional thoughts…
Senior year of high school. With less than 1 semester left, I still haven’t fully wrapped my mind around it. Our daughter is 18, is 5 months away from graduating high school, and 8 months away from going away to college.
As the year got under way, I realized just how many lasts this year would be comprised of; her last, first day of high school picture; her last, opening night of the Fall Musical; her last birthday that she would be at home…This was the one that really struck a nerve.
Every year on the kids’ birthday eve, we decorate the dining room for them (balloons, streamers, signs, etc). This is a tradition that I actually have grown to dread as they’ve gotten older and stay up later and I’m just so tired and ready for bed but, they insist I keep doing it.
The kids both had to work the night before Makayla’s 18th birthday so I told her we would decorate while they are at work so don’t come into the dining room when she gets home. As I was walking out of her room I said “This will be the last year you’ll be home (here is where I started crying) for me to decorate. I’m crying! I don’t even like decorating the dining room!” (insert ugly, crying face here). This was the moment when it really hit me. My little girl is leaving. Sure she’ll come back home to do laundry and eat her favorite meals, but, she is leaving my house.
We did survive decorating and celebrating her 18th birthday. There were some teary, melancholy moments (even her dad was a little misty as we stood back and admired
our work). The theme of her birthday didn’t really help with the emotions. We did an “Adventure Awaits” theme with letters made out of a South Carolina map, gifts wrapped like luggage and a Burn the Ships table decoration. Not only is our
daughter going away to college, she is hoping to go 12 hours away to college so that really packs a big punch when we think about her leaving.
The next big last we encountered was her last Homecoming. Homecoming week is always a big week around our house, with lots of stress and last minute projects. As I was cleaning up the last of the mess from the kids working on their Hall Decs in my basement, it was a bittersweet moment.
I was glad to get my exercise room back but also sad that this great group of kids wouldn’t be making messes and eating all the frozen pizza getting ready for homecoming again. Their last Lip Sync performance had all of the senior moms sniffling as they flipped over their “Closed May 2020” sign. All of those things paled in comparison though to our last Homecoming photo shoot.
After all of the pictures had been taken, our Photog Mom pulled us all in for a group hug and a prayer for our beautiful girls. The moms were teary just joining in the hug but by the end of the prayer almost everyone’s mascara was running. We mopped up our faces, hugged each other and sent our girls off to enjoy their very last High School Homecoming.
On the way home, I reflected on the situation (while crying of course). I know every parent is sad (to some degree) when their kids leave home. What makes it so much harder for us is that our group of girls are such great kids!
They are all smart and determined. They work hard at everything they do. They support each other and compete with each other, pushing each other to do their best. They are athletes and scholars. They coach ball and teach martial arts and serve in their churches.
We didn’t really experience the whole idea that “the teenage years make it easier to send them off to college.” So as we cry a little at the lasts we encounter during their senior year, we also marvel at all of the amazing things they will do.
Intermingled with all of the bittersweet lasts are some pretty amazing firsts…
· Her last first day of high school was also her first day of her EMT class
· 3 days after Makayla turned 18, she had her first scholarship interview and we went to our first college football game
· She had her first all access weekend at one of her top college choices
· As a family, we went to our 1st Symphony performance
· She got to put on scrubs and play medical student at her first Cadaver lab
· We went to our 1st College Basketball game during our last scholarship interview weekend
Her future is taking shape and I know we don’t have much to worry about; she knows what she wants and she works hard to make it happen. So, I’ve decided I’m going to give myself permission to shed as many tears as I want as each last comes along. I’m also going to enjoy and celebrate all of the firsts we encounter along the way. I’ll even try to enjoy her first time moving into a dorm, but I can’t make any promises!
After I wrote this article, there should have been several more lasts for my senior. For all of our seniors. Senior trips, Prom, Graduation. The main rites of passage that turn the page from being a kid in high school to being an adult(ish).
Those first few weeks of the shut down were pretty rough. Everyone was home, trying to figure out how to pass the time and as each event slowly slipped away, the emotions ran a little higher. We came to terms with the “new normal” (does anyone else loathe that term?) and tried to focus on the future and the few things that hadn’t been taken away.
We allowed our senior to get together with her small group of friends. Their gatherings were very COVID-friendly. They would park their cars in a circle with their back hatches open and have breakfast together, or lunch, or watch the sunset. They would laugh together, talk about college in the fall and cry about everything they didn’t get to do together, one, last time.
We finally reached a point where we said, “ok, this year is shot, let’s focus on what comes next.” Makayla went online and started “meeting” kids from GWU’s class of 2024 and started looking for a roommate.
Then, one day, she came out of her room and exclaimed that she was going to try out for the cheer team. Since she hadn’t cheered since freshman year of high school, we were a little surprised, but also happy that she had something positive to turn her attention to. Through the time she was practicing and talking to current cheerleaders and those trying out, she also met her future roommate! It was fun to watch her practice (we would watch the FB videos with her and help her learn routines) and I was so grateful to see her working hard and focusing on her future. She tried out for the team on April 28 and made it, so now she really had something to look forward to.
The last year has been hard on everyone, but we did all adjust the best we could and everyone did their very best to salvage the terrible situation we were in. Teachers delivered senior signs to the kids’ yards, the NHS sponsors delivered goody bags in lieu of senior night. Instead of prom, we all got dressed up, had a fancy dinner at home and took pictures of her in her dress. We also got 2 Pandemic Puppies (which I really don’t recommend).
We made it work, but we certainly had plenty of tears along the way. What started out as tears over senior lasts, ended up being tears over missed lasts, the hardest of which was graduation. The school did it’s very best to honor the seniors. They had a ceremony, where each student had a time slot to show up to the school and walk across the stage and pick up their diploma. We were able to take a picture of her on the stage with her principal and vice principal socially distanced behind her and her yearbook sponsor (one of her favorite teachers) took a picture of us in front of the school banner.
But, the occasion was even sadder than it would have been because she didn’t get to do it with her classmates, she didn’t get to hug her principal (who she called “best friend”), she didn’t get to tell her teachers bye. She wanted to cry and laugh and celebrate with her friends. She wanted to hug classmates and tell them bye, so many of whom she will likely never see again. She didn’t get closure on her time as a Raider and that, for me, was the worst thing about the situation.
The time since her graduation day still hasn’t been great. Her freshman year certainly hasn’t been what she had hoped for. She’s been in quarantine 3 times and on isolation with COVID. The fall football season was postponed and cheering for basketball was from the stands with no stunting or tumbling with masks on. We are grateful for her school, Gardner Webb University, because as disappointing as her freshman year has been, her experience has been a lot better than a lot of college freshman. And things are looking up; football season has started (they are still in the stands but get to go on the field at half-time), she and her roommate were able to move into an on-campus apartment and she’s secured a job as a Peer leader on campus next year. The college is making plans to move back to normalcy in the fall so we are hopeful her sophomore year will be the experience she’s been looking forward to.
I hope that even with everything your family has been through over the last year, you are able to find great moments along the way that wouldn’t have happened under normal circumstances. COVID has taken so much away, but our time together has given us gifts too. My prayer for all of us is that when things do return to normal, we won’t give up the good things we found while going through this pandemic together.