High school: An epic experience

. March 12, 2013.

Back in January I made a trip to my old high school here in town. Instead of a trip down memory lane or to see a sporting event or play, I went for my daughter, Gabbi’s, Curriculum Night. The informational meeting and tour was for any current eighth graders interested in attending this fall. While the program was well worth it, it did nothing to alleviate my state of being in shock from having a soon-to-be high school student
in our family.

The whole evening, I kept thinking, “This is happening way too fast. Why don’t we just give Gabbi her driver’s license  already and hand her the keys?” Wasn’t it just last year that we dropped her off at Kindergarten? I remember remarking to my wife then that we were officially no longer new parents. Well, what does that make us now—old geezer parents?

Needless to say, the administrators who ran Curriculum Night didn’t seem to care that I was just a bit wobbly. They carried on with vigor, explaining all there was to know about the school. If there was one main theme of the evening, it was this: “Yes, the school is big—very big. But don’t worry.” I don’t think they were trying to intimidate anyone. Rather, they could probably see the wide-eyed kids in the audience and were trying to calm them down.

If Gabbi were nervous about the school’s size, she didn’t show it to me. I said to her at one point, “Gabs, yes it’s big, but you figure out where everything is in a couple of days. After that you never think about it. Besides that, I still have friends here in the school. Granted, they’re teachers now, but they’ll help you if you need it. And, if any of them ever give you trouble in class, I could tell  you stories about what they were like in ninth grade.”

“Don’t worry, Dad. I’m fine,” she said. “This place looks pretty epic.” (Evidently, “epic” is a current slang term for something good.)

After our orientation meeting in the auditorium, it was time to visit the classrooms. This was the part where Gabbi got to pretend like she was paying attention to what she’d have to learn next school year. (I think, right now, she’s more concerned with what will be on her math test next week.) It was also the part where I got to whisper to other parents I knew, “Can you believe this is happening?”

Their response: “I know. I’m freakin’ out, man!”

As we walked through the hallways between classes, I could picture various friends and incidents from the 80s. Each spot in the corridor elicited an old memory: “Above that drinking fountain is where we taped a Mr. T action figure to the wall. Look Gabbi, there’s my old locker from senior year. We used to lick gummy bears and stick ‘em on the inside of the door.”

Her response: “Mmhm. Nice, Dad. Let’s keep moving.” Ouch. A verbal cattle prod.

Gabbi was more interested in what she was going to encounter next fall. This eagerness was cranked up even further when we visited the sports’ and clubs’ in the gym. Intrigued by all types of clubs—from one that helps to build clean water wells in poor countries to one that just bakes cupcakes (and eats them presumably)—Gabbi was ready to sign up.

As we were about to leave, I heard from over my shoulder, “Jim! Hey Jimmy!” I turned around and saw my old golf coach (and when I say “old,” don’t let that fool you. He still looks like a hundred bucks).

“Gabbi, you have to come over here and meet Coach,” I said.

“Would you like to play golf for us, Gabbi?” Coach asked.

“Sure. But I don’t really play.”

“No problem. Go over to the booth and talk to a couple of my seniors. They’ll tell you how much fun it is,” Coach said.

While he and I were catching up, I could hear a din of excited chatting from the direction of the booth. By the time we left, Gabbi was rarin’ to try out. (Nevermind that she doesn’t own clubs.) I would have liked to stay longer and talk with Coach, but Curriculum Night was over.

Walking to the parking lot, I began feeling a dreaded sense of my world changing rapidly. Gabbi’s younger sister, Molly, will be in middle school next year. That’ll be two school changes for us. Gone are the days of walking into the classrooms in the mornings to drop the kids off (something my parents never did, but seems to be fashionable for parents of lower elementary students). Gone, too, are the days of volunteering for the class Halloween party. Our girls are growing older, and so am I. But if I think about it, I find that I continue to  enjoy our journey together. Yes, life is pretty “epic.”

Jim Keen is a free-lance writer and life-long Ann Arborite. He lives in town with his wife, Bonnie, and daughters, Gabbi (13) and Molly (10). He is the author of Inside Intermarriage: A Christian Partner’s Perspective on Raising a Jewish Family (URJ Press). He can be reached at mya2@annarborfamily.com