In August each year, Ken and I go back to high school. Standing in line with the other parents, who noodle into longer and thicker lines than usual because of our high school now encompassing 9th grade, we wait to get our schedules. Ken, usually exceedingly polite, inadvertently steps in front of someone, and I pull him back. He didn’t mean to, but when you’re in high school, you just find yourself doing these kinds of things. I see several parents cut in line while pretending they don’t know what they’re doing.
Once we get our schedules, we’re off to classes. Okay, so they’re the classes of our son Forest, now a junior, but for tonight, they’re our classes: 10 minutes each before the bell rings. Some of the moms are wearing lovely Burmuda shorts and silk tank tops, and I worry about my worn-out summer clothes, but then I see a mom in ripped-off gym shorts, and I breathe a sigh of relief.
As always, but more so, it’s hard to find the classrooms. That’s partially because the numbers changed. In looking for film class, I ended up going up the stairs even though I should have known better (Forest was in the same classroom before), then downstairs, getting direction from someone who I thought said to go back upstairs. There a lovely and free-for-the-moment tall man who teaches English actually walks me back downstairs and shows me the entry to the room. It turns out Forest will get to see High Noon and Invasion of the Body Snatchers this year. Getting to digital imagining class is a treasure hunt, down one hall, turn left and down another, turn and step outside, walk a little while and then enter the non-descript door to the left. I’m elated to have found the room, and after hearing the engaging teacher tell us about learning these cool design programs (with great images she projects on the screen), I ask if Ken and I can join the class too.
English class is almost always the same room and same teacher for us, never mind that it’s our seventh year in high school. Forest is our third kid, and like our children before him, he’s making a habit of choosing Sue Donnelly whenever he can. It’s no wonder given how passionate she is about the kids, having “honest” discussions about literature and life, and how she’s so enthusiastic and inspiring about what words can do that she should be sent on tour throughout the world. History class lands us with Mr. Hood, who we know as Jack from when he taught preschool to our oldest son. Whenever I see him, I remember a room years ago with miniature desks and piles of foam blocks, where we talked and cried about my son’s seizures at the time, Jack’s big heart helping me through that time. So I don’t care that he rarely accepts extra credit now.
After so many years at high school, we hug many of the teachers, catch them up on our older kids, take our seats in the awkward desks and pull out our writing utensil to take notes. Every year, there’s at least one teacher so young that all the parents smile lovingly at him or her, thinking the same thought: s/he could be my child. Every year, there’s hope and joy over the promise that spills over from the syllabus. Every year, we end up having to buy a new graphing calculator because the old one is lost.
By the end of the day (although it’s night), after the steady happiness of choir and the stand-up comedy of the pre-calculus teacher, there’s band. Here we sit on the floor, marveling at the upcoming trip to Disney World, but we also dread the 24-hour bus ride home. Then it dawns on us that we’re not going. While we would like to stay for the full band parent meeting that follows, we’re in high school, so we have no choice but to sneak out, tiptoeing by a teacher who wags a finger at us as we mime-beg him to be silent. Out in the parking lot we’re free…….at least for another year.