I always want to say, “I don’t get emotional often, but …”
But that would be such a lie. I get emotional all the time. All manner of things can set me off. Puppy videos. Friends’ babies. Weddings. Graduations. Pretty much any and all montages. And for some reason, even before I had kids of my own, children performing anything always just got me right in the tear ducts.
I remember being maybe 21, working as an AmeriCorps volunteer at an elementary school in Columbia, Missouri; the kids begged me to attend their Thanksgiving program, and somewhere between a song about friendship and another song about corn and sharing I just lost it, started quietly weeping out in the audience among the parents. I was mortified – these weren’t my kids; the parents weren’t crying like I was – but the tears just kept coming. I was able to get a hold of myself before the curtain call, but when I tried to tell them how proud I was of them, I got all choked up again.
Now that I have two kids of my own and have attended more pageants; talent shows; plays; dance recitals; and fall, winter and spring concerts than I can even count, my heart has hardened somewhat. Georgia singing Christmas carols in her snowflake pajamas? Yes, I bawled. Ruby doing ballet/spinning in circles to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow?” I was a weeping, snotty mess. But I made it through the school play, a tap dance performance and a frenzied rendition of “Uptown Funk” completely dry-eyed.
I didn’t cry (much) during the year-end talent show at the girls’ school, even though both of my daughters turned in admirable performances. But then it all fell apart at the parent volunteer appreciation dinner.
Some of my tears were bittersweet – Georgia has just “graduated” from the George Cottage (which she is quite certain is named the “Georgia Cottage” in her honor), and no matter how much I psyched myself up for it, I’m truly not 100 percent ready for my baby to be starting pre-K.
Most of my tears, though, were of pure gratitude. I have never known anxiety precisely as acute as the anxiety I felt before starting Ruby at a new school for her third-grade year.
What if the kids were mean? What if the work was too hard? What if the teachers were strict or the expectations were unreasonable? What if she didn’t make friends or didn’t like the school?
But now, with the school year finished and behind us, I can safely say that I have never been prouder of my daughter – she was lagging academically when she started, but she taught herself cursive, studied her B and C quizzes when she got them back to learn from her mistakes, did her homework every night and ended the year with extremely high grades. And even more important, she made friends – so many friends, boys and girls, in all grades, all across the school.
This isn’t all just Ruby, though. St. Martin’s has been so warm and welcoming and wonderful – whatever stereotype I might have had in my head about “private school kids” and how they might act … I’m embarrassed I ever even entertained those ideas because these kids, all of them, could not have been any nicer or more accepting of my sweet, bright and very intense little girl.
I found myself wiping away tears as I talked to the teachers and various heads of school, just so overwhelmed and thankful.
Ruby, though, wasn’t even close to crying. As much as she enjoyed her first year at St. Martin’s, she wasn’t sorry to see it end.
“Mom, it’s summer,” she told me, speaking to me as if I had a mental defect (which maybe I do). “Summer. Cheer up – there’s absolutely nothing sad about summer!”
“I’m not sad,” I told her. “I’m just emotional. I don’t get emotional often, but …”
Happy summer, everyone.
Excerpted from Eve Crawford Peyton’s blog, Joie d’Eve, which appears each Friday on MyNewOrleans.com.