Kim and Maggie and I were walking home from Boulevard the other day from some end of the year event or other. Kim asked Maggie about some first grader who had come up to say hi to Maggie. Maggie told us who that was. Kim shook her head at our shy and antisocial child. How does she know so many kids at school.
"Well," Maggie explained, "all of the first graders know me since Elena died."
Just matter-of-fact. A simple explanation. It made me wonder about next year. After being in the same school for five years, Maggie now goes on these two year jaunts. Fifth and sixth grade at Woodbury then seventh and eighth grade at Byron.
Maggie wouldn't have been back in the same school building with Elena until her senior year in high school. Maggie is pretty sure that one of the years in high school is called "wintergreen". I think that's because I called her Junior Mint for years.
Once Maggie got too big to be called Junior, I would refer to Elena that way.
"I'm not Junior," she'd yell laughing, "Maggie is Junior. I'm pip squeak."
And she was.
Elena had talked about Maggie's last day at Boulevard for years. She'd looked forward to it. Not because Maggie would be leaving the school and her behind, but because she would get to help clap Maggie out.
Such a great tradition. There are schools that graduate their children from fourth or sixth grade. Shaker has the clap out. Looking back at Maggie's time at Boulevard, the school has excelled at easing transitions both for the kids and for the parents.
I took Maggie to meet her kindergarten teacher before school started. It wasn't a one-on-one meeting with just the teacher. There was a handful of families who attended the orientation. Alex was in Maggie's orientation group and five years later the two girls are still great friends. A year later the kindergarten teachers help the new first graders transition to first grade. The kids find their kindergarten teachers on the lawn and the kindergarten teacher walks each child over to their first grade teacher and introduces them.
Clap out is another great transitional tradition. After the entire school watches the fourth grade video, the parents of the fourth graders move out to the front lawn. The kids from the lower grades line the halls and clap for the fourth graders as they walk the halls of the school one last time. The whole school claps for the exiting class.
Elena couldn't wait for clap out. She was so looking forward to cheering on her sister as she left the school. She loved to tell people "that's my sister." People who didn't know would sometimes look from this undersized white child to the tall chinese girl she was pointing to and not make the connection.
But that was her sister.
Elena would have been jumping up and down, as us short people do, trying to catch an early glimpse of Maggie as she came down the hall, heading for the door. She would have called to each of Maggie's friends that she'd come to know over the past five years. She would have shouted "whoo-hoo" and tried to wolf whistle like her aunt Jill. She would have then joined us on the lawn as we clapped for Maggie and interrupted the moment by telling us what her clap out would be like.
But Elena didn't join us on the lawn. She didn't jump up and down in the hall. She didn't whoop for her sister. Fortunately, all of the first graders who had come to know Maggie did. They passed on Elena's cheers and well wishes to Maggie and all of the other fourth graders as they walked by.
At the front door the teachers called out the name of each fourth grader as they left the building. The parents cheered. I looked at these nine and ten year olds leaving their elementary school for the last time. It seemed that no time had passed and yet they looked so different from when they'd entered as kindergartners. They had spent half of their life in this school. They'd entered with that cute and eager look of little kids. They left, still cute and eager, but with an eye on what they were becoming.
Afterwards, Maggie comes to find me. She wants me to take pictures of her with her friends. She takes me from teacher to teacher so that I can take a picture of her with each one. It's a walk down memory lane as she takes pictures with her kindergarten teacher Mrs. Rimideo, her first grade teacher Mrs. Chung (who was Miss Shorter then), her second grade teacher Mrs. Eagleton, her third grade teacher Miss Pospisil, and her fourth grade teacher Mrs. Spivey. These are the women who helped Maggie become this person that I love talking to. I don't know whether or not we would have chosen any of them for Maggie if we were given a choice. How were we to know that each would be perfect for her.
Kim and Maggie and I walk over to Elena's garden there on the front lawn of the school. Kim and I look at each other sadly. It's not just Maggie that is moving on from Boulevard. It's time for us to go too. We thought we had another three years in this wonderful, nurturing home. We thought we'd be back here for coffee on the lawn at the beginning of next year. We'd come in to help make chocolate with the second graders. We'd be back at the end of the year for Carnival.
And the year after that.
And the year after that.
And then we'd be there for Elena's clap out.
Maggie is leaving Boulevard. She's been clapped out. She's said goodbye. She's had her picture taken with her friends and teachers. She's enjoying her summer and looking forward to next year at Woodbury.
Goodbye Boulevard. Thank you.