The email brought me to my knees simply read: I’d like to organize a zoom graduation.
My eyes filled. My heart clutched.
At first I quieted: containing my grief. After all, it is not high school graduation, or college graduation. It is not a wedding deferred; it’s not the most important adolescent social relationships disrupted; it’s not a job loss or a death or harrowing illness. It’s not anywhere near to the most heartbreaking havoc that COVID-19 has spurred.
But it is heartbreak that my girls won’t get to hug their beloved teachers one last time, that I won’t commiserate over kindergarten placements with the other mothers, that there will not be promises of playdates beyond preschool, when this small group of children- many of them bilingual anomalies growing up in suburbia- break apart from their protective preschool bubble into kindergarten, where so many of them will be the only bilingual and the only biracial child in the classroom.
More than anything, it’s the ritual of the graduation for which I am aching: the noticing that time has passed, that things were sweet, that now we will go on new adventures. It is the fear of leaning into the increasingly unknown educational landscape that has be grasping for something mundane like a line of four year olds wearing construction paper hats that fall over their eyes. I wish for their teacher’s shining face, leading them through hand movements. I wish for parents and grandparents sitting in tiny preschool chairs – half of them English speaking, half of them Spanish speaking, all of them with knees reaching up to their chest because the chairs were made for humans much smaller. I miss the everyday celebration of these wonderful children and the community they’ve built together.
Grieving the loss of preschool graduation and of this little community doesn’t eclipse the harrowing illness and death, the economic worry, or the social sorrow of the present moment. It is rather to say, this is just one more thing, but this one thing was the drop that overflowed my bucket.
My preschoolers did not know they needed this particular rite of passage, and so they are not grieving it. After all, it is I who needed it – me, who needed the other mothers, me who, hoped our family would see their sweet friendships and brilliant water colors. For these little girls, this is what there is, and it is alright.
And as their mother, what I want to give them is a way to mark the time, to celebrate and to acknowledge, to remember the sweetness of preschool and shine light on how exciting the next adventure – a kindergarten that none of us can yet imagine – will be. A celebration will suffice, and we will acknowledge all that they’ve learned and all the wish to become. They will probably ask for golden rainbow cakes, and I will probably make golden rainbow cakes, because I do believe that magic and celebration and acknowledgement and saying, “you’re ready to learn more things now” is an important marker of time.