Tuesday, July 19, 2011

No Vacancies

It happened. I know people say that time flies, but from the moment our first entered school we never thought the day would ever arrive. We were destined to be tortured with designs made out of macaroni shells and shoe boxes crafted into facsimiles of what I think were houses. But it did. Zac, our youngest, finally graduated high school and after the commencement and the hours of beer pong that ensued, we breathed a sigh of exaggerated but well-earned relief. Not because he had made it, but because they all did. Every child was successfully out of high school and no longer begging for lunch money - just lunch.

The girls cried as their babies were no longer needing rides to practice or calling to be checked out of school so they could have lunch with the girlfriend that graduated the year before. No longer would I receive those automated recordings begging me to help with Project Graduation or reminding me I only had a few days left before the hundred dollar yearbooks were sold out. Guidance counselors could now harass the parents of juniors who would soon becoming seniors....or so the parents thought.

High school. It hadn't really changed much since I graduated twenty-seven years ago. The kids were pulling the same pranks and had to even suffer some of the same teachers. Of course, they had the FCAT test, that obnoxious Florida state test given to see how well the schools were doing that really only panicked everyone, but truly if they couldn't pass it why should they feel bad? Most of the faculty failed it as well.

The same issues were faced and overcome - peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, Ben & Jerry's Phish Food. They survived without getting beat up or beating anyone else up and we survived without having to ship them off to boarding school - not that at times we weren't tempted. Together we rummaged through Wal-Mart’s and Walgreens to find the school supplies that they waited until the night before they just had to have them to tell us about. We then fussed the next day when they really didn't need them because, well, "Sorry, Dad, it was for the next class" and they had misread the paper.

We sat through football games, theater productions, and parent-teacher conferences just so we could spend too much money on a cap and gown and watch them walk down the aisle eager to toss that cardboard cap high into the air with an air of tradition. We sent out the announcements, organized the open house, and made room for the relatives in celebration of this final day of their high school career. In the past it was a celebration of great achievement for the child, but this year it had the added bonus of being a reward for the parents as well. This was the final one and we survived them all.

Of course, my hair is greyer in places where it's not missing altogether, but it was worth it. I don't know a parent alive that would tell you differently. And, it's with a nostalgic tear that we look back and say, "We'll miss them."

Except, they’re not gone. Oh, a couple left for a brief period to try their new set of wings, but my house is full once again. The little chicks have come back to roost. The girls love it, so for them I smile. I, on the other hand, had gotten used to watching the Golden Girls on my couch in my boxers eating Chunky Monkey. Now, I have to actually close the door again when I go to the restroom, which is not a properly named room. I'd light incense, but I'm afraid of what the flames would do with the fumes. It's not that I'm a nudist at heart; I'm just lazy. I don't want to go inside and squeeze into a bathing suit when I should be able to strip down right there and jump into my pool. Even when we do get the house to ourselves there's no telling who will come home when and unannounced and it only takes one "Oh my god, you're naked!" to make life at home feel like a sitcom.

Don't get me wrong. I love my kids and I would do anything in the world for them. However, I know now why there are teenagers. It's those years that force papa birds to shove the obstinate chicks out of the nest despite the wailful chirping of the mama birds. Of course, Char has always said that the kids could have the house after they graduated; we would be the ones to leave home and run away to the mountains. I think they took her serious and feel we are the ones now over-staying our welcome. I wonder if my mom has a spare bedroom.

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