Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Graduation Day

By Brooke Lefferts
In a few days, my youngest child, Eli, will bust through the double doors of Marshall for the last time. I've had a kid in that school for nine consecutive years! My oldest son was there in the stone age, when kindergarten was only half-day. I'm a sap so milestones like this always kick me in the gut. It makes me a little sad—the realization that time marches on, like little feet lining up on the blacktop, and there's nothing we can do to slow it down.

Of course there are some things I won't miss, like racing to the bus every morning, with an unzipped backpack in one hand and half buttered bagel in the other, hoping the driver will take pity on us yet again and wait. But I'll miss the friendship, camaraderie and gossip at the bus stop, and having a kid young enough to eagerly kiss and hug me in public, and wave as they drive away.

Marshall is a special place and I'm grateful my three boys (now 8, 11, and 14) started their education there. From the calm, reliable presence of the fish and classical music when you enter, to the hallways lined with street signs named after favorite children's authors, it's an inviting environment that makes even grown ups feel safe.

I've spent many lunch periods opening milk cartons and cleaning up spills in the cafetorium. I felt pride and excitement watching all my boys beaming as they sang, beat a drum, or recited a poem on the stage, under that inspiring motto, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

But it's the people I'll miss most. My two older sons were lucky to have Arlene Lambert as their first school librarian, with her soothing way of engaging children in any story she read in her magic garden. We still have her list of favorite books hanging in our kitchen, and I'm determined to get through most of them… someday. Cathrine Evans introduced us to many new authors during her time as the Marshall librarian and always knew every child's name and made them feel heard.

Nurse Johnson's unending kindness, patience and love for children will stay with me and my boys. If I was to be marooned on a desert island, she'd be in my top 5 people to take. She exudes positive energy, loves to laugh, and can spot lice and apply a Band-Aid like nobody's business.

Over 9 years, my kids had some wonderful teachers, but there are too many to single out. The best ones built community in their classrooms and taught my kids not only to work hard to find answers, but to be empathetic to their peers. They took field trips to see monkeys at the Bronx Zoo, watched plays at the Morristown Theater, and picked pumpkins at Wightman's Farm. They met famous authors and poets and published their own stories.

Marshall built a foundation for my boys and hopefully, deep down inside, instilled a love of learning. I'm going to miss grooving on Grove. My oldest son is starting Columbia in the fall and my middle one will be at Maplewood Middle, as Eli moves on to Jefferson. When September rolls around there will be excitement and some nerves, but in part because of Marshall, they'll be ready.

Follow Brooke on her blog Carpool Candy and on Twitter @carpoolcandy.