June 9th marked the so-called last day of school for the 2016-17 academic year...I phrase it this way because Derek had officially finished the previous morning when he turned in his last exam...and Riley actually only had to attend his 90-minute Promotion Ceremony before being dismissed from the hallowed halls of Middle School for good and ever. (One sec: yaaaaayyyyy! Thanks...)
Cruel and insensitive parental units that we are, Husband and I required the older brother to tag along with us and support his sibling--even though Riley apparently told Derek privately that he was completely indifferent to his presence, and therefore didn't care if he slept in rather than attending. However, when I got wind of this, I informed Derek that that was all very nice, but...tough--you're coming anyway, so suck it up, buttercup! (Or something to that effect...) Derek's reply was a resigned shrug and a mild retort, "Fine. I'm getting up at 8:25, then!" (We were leaving at 8:40, but as long as he was...um..."dressed", I decided I wouldn't protest. Sometimes you've gotta set the bar waaayyy low, ya know?)
So we sent Riley over to the school at his usual time...albeit MUCH more fancily attired than normal. In fact, he'd requested a ride from Husband, rather than walking like he typically does, so that he wouldn't get all sweaty in his dress clothes. Lucky for him he got dropped off at the front door, as it turned out, since by the time the rest of Team WestEnders pulled ourselves together and joined the throng a short while later, finding a parking space anywhere near the building resembled a...shopping mall at Christmas....kind of situation.
Finally we jumped a curb to claim a...technically illegal, I suppose...spot in the grass (like many others had done before us, so we figured, "no harm, no foul"...or much more importantly, "no one's going to bother giving us a ticket, at least during this event") and trooped into the gym for the last time...along with friends and relations belonging to the other 242 8th graders. (Amusingly, the massive crowd included several of Derek's buddies who also have family members in Riley's class, as well as many other High Schoolers that he recognized. So evidently we were NOT the only parents who insisted on making this a Family Activity. Ha!)
Then the actual pomp and circumstance (such as it was) commenced, with the Principal giving an abbreviated version of a graduation address, and expressing appreciation to a number of parent volunteers and superlative teachers. Next a parade of instructors handed out a slew of awards to deserving students. And finally, when their name was called, each kid was handed a certificate commemorating the culmination of their time in Middle School.
And...then it was all O-V-E-R, folks--the ceremony, the 3 years in Junior High...the whole shebang. I must say, I experienced quite a few emotions during the morning's progression--but shockingly, none of them could be called "sadness". Of course there's no small amount of maternal pride, as he reaches this milestone at the end of a very successful three-year..."career". And then...there's a great deal of SHOCK...that my youngest son is now in High School...and that means there are only four more years until he'll be completely done. (Yikes!)
Okay, okay--if I'm being honest, perhaps there's even a tiny bit of nostalgia, realizing that certain things are now in the past...like attending two separate Back to School nights...or looking up the Supply Lists in August and making that expensive-but-nerdily-satisfying jaunt to Staples to stock up on necessities. (Oh, who am I trying to kid? We loooove us some office supplies, so we'll probably just manufacture an excuse--no matter how flimsy--to take a field trip to Staples anyway...)
Lastly, as I look at the photos I snapped to capture this memory, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude...that Riley formed such a wonderful group of friends during his Middle School years...that he's ready and excited to be moving on to his next adventure...and that his Big Bro will be there to help him navigate the...Freshman waters...in the Fall (which I'm sure Derek will do...along with a certain amount of--hopefully good-natured--"Welcome to High School hazing" that is bound to occur as well...). For now, with all of their obligations behind them, the Westman boys can get down to the crucial task...of starting to enjoy their Summer Vacation. Sooooo....let the fun begin!