Saturday, June 25, 2011

School's Out and I'm Feeling a Little Schmaltzy

Yesterday was the last day of school.

A seventh grader left my house at 6:45 am for a pre-school pancake breakfast at a friend's. An eighth grader returned at 3:15 pm, having "hung out" at Starbucks en route. She didn't look any different. She was no more (but, thankfully, no less) interested in her devoted mother. And still, this was another milestone in the endless string of events big and small that mark our journey together.

By this time, however, I know better than to point these things out. Why give her yet another example of just how schmaltzy I am?

It's a tradition in our family that my daughter gets to choose what she wants to do for dinner after the last day of school. In years past, we've had fish and chips on the harbor, pizza at Bertucci's and a pu pu platter at a local Chinese place. When second grade ended, we went into Boston and visited the aquarium so she could pick up a penguin hand puppet like the one her teacher had used with the class. They had taken turns bringing said penguin home and writing about his stay with them in a special diary. Its name was Fluffy or Puffy or some such thing. It amazes me that I can't remember now, since life in Mrs. J's class pretty much revolved around when you got to bring him home and what scrapes you could get into together.

Stop me now or I'll get schmaltzy again.

This year, I suggested another trip into Boston for pasta and pastry in the North End. We were all set until we realized that my husband had Peter Gabriel tickets for the same night. I decided to give the guest of honor a choice: she and I could go together or we could time shift the celebration until her dad would be available too.

"We can wait," she shrugged. "It's no big deal."

Let me explain that in the past, it would have been a very big deal indeed. My daughter loves the concept of tradition. In fact, she will often allude to something as a "tradition" that would never have occurred to us. Like "But, it's our tradition to stop for a McFlurry on the way home from so-and-so's house." "It's a tradition that we listen to the entire first season of Glee when we drive up to Vermont." Or, "Eating two bags of microwave popcorn is a tradition when we watch What A Girl Wants." Last day of school celebrations have always been important.

Not so much anymore, I guess.

Her new laissez-faire attitude certainly made my life easier. It's been a particularly cold and wet season here, and yesterday was no exception. Parking in the North End is stressful and expensive. And, I had several dueling deadlines for clients — my time would be much better spent sitting in my office and working rather than sitting in traffic on our way into town.

Still, I felt, as I so often do, that another piece of our life together was breaking off and disappearing. From experience, I've found that when these rituals fall by the wayside due to some random, seemingly inconsequential decision, they don't come back.

There it is again, the schmaltz.

I decided to give it one more shot. "What would you like to do this afternoon? Do you want to go anywhere? Watch anything? Have anything special for dinner?"


"You just want to hang out and do nothing?"


So that's what she did. I didn't ask her to go through the year's worth of schoolwork that had been dumped on her carpet. I didn't insist that she put away the clean laundry that was piled on her bed. I didn't tell her to stop playing games on her iPhone or texting her now eighth-grade BFFs. I served up an easy but tasty dinner, which we ate together at the coffee table in front of the TV.

After ten months of seventh grade, I figured she'd earned the right to be a little lazy. And, after ten months of seventh grade, I've earned the right to be a little ... well ... schmaltzy.

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