Monthly Archives: May 2011

Endings and Beginnings

Next week is my daughter Laurel’s last week of eighth grade, her last week of middle school…which leads me to recall her first week of middle school:

We had just moved and knew not a soul at the middle school. Laurel was a little nervous. I was more than a little nervous for her. I remembered my own middle school experiences –which didn’t exactly help. “Is middle school really necessary?” I asked my husband privately, using the same tone I might’ve used to say, “Is torture really necessary?” My husband said, “Yes, middle school is necessary… by law.” So off we went, to middle school.

Laurel on her first day of middle school.

When we arrived at school, Laurel commented that the eighth graders looked big and scary. I couldn’t disagree. In fact, Laurel suddenly looked very small to me, as she walked into the building all alone on her first day of middle school. I worried about her all day.

After school, I learned that Laurel had no academic records, and therefore no schedule, and no lunch account at the middle school, despite all my efforts to the contrary. “Don’t worry; it’ll all be sorted out by tomorrow,” Laurel assured me. But it wasn’t. For three days Laurel sat in the library (which she loved) while her classes began without her.

Now, I don’t mind telling you that I tend to be an overly prepared, extremely precise and efficient kind of person; unfortunately, I’m NOT extremely patient. So the school situation that first week drove me a little cray-cray – which is middle school speak for crazy. (I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world with this particular combination of…um, qualities. Mr. Carney, for example, probably totally understands my reaction.) I wanted everything sorted out immediately, and it would’ve been, if only I could’ve done the sorting! But I couldn’t. I couldn’t provide Laurel’s academic records, since schools only accept academic records directly from other schools, and I couldn’t make Laurel a schedule, but the lunch account? Surely I could do something about her lunch account. I made a copy of the canceled check I had written for Laurel’s lunch account and sent it, along with a note, to school with Laurel the next morning.

When I picked Laurel up that afternoon, the first thing I said was, “Did your lunch account get straightened out today?” Laurel looked at me like she felt really sorry for me, and then, reluctantly admitted, “No, not yet, but…” I don’t remember what else was said – I might’ve blacked out a little. Laurel waited for me to calm down. When I finished my shrieky little rant, Laurel said, “Yes, I gave your note to the lady in the cafeteria, Mrs. Gilliam.” “Uh-huh…AND?” I demanded. “WHAT DID SHE SAY?” Laurel continued, “She said, ‘Honey, I know your mama paid; it’s just not in my computer system yet.’ Then Mrs. Gilliam took my hand, looked me in my eyes, and said, ‘Everything’s gonna be okay. Tell your mama.’” I thought about this message for a few minutes. Then, I took a deep breath, exhaled, and said, “Okay then.”

These are some of the wisest, most helpful words I’ve ever heard: “Everything’s gonna be okay. Tell your mama.”

So, these days, whenever my daughter and her friends worry aloud about starting high school, I say to them, “Everything’s gonna be okay. Tell your mama.”

And I say to you, where ever you are, whatever you are finishing or starting: Everything’s gonna be okay. Tell your mama. Also? It is never a good idea to trim your own bangs. (What? This is solid advice for anyone, anywhere, at any age. Believe me. I speak from experience. Okay, experiences.)

Finally, to the entire faculty and staff at Bate, especially my personal hero, Mrs. Gilliam, I say: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Laurel has, without question, absolutely thrived in your care, and she has loved every minute of middle school – which I consider a small miracle!

Laurel as the big, scary eighth grader she is today (with her dog, Comfort, who is also BIG and SCARY as far as she’s concerned).