There is a moment near the end of "American Graffiti" when, just after Bob Falfa's car explodes and Laurie rushes back to Steve's arms in tears, that Terry "The Toad" starts to enthuse to John about what a great car John has and what a great race that was and how no one could ever beat him. Milner knows that he had a near miss but he is quick to pump up his bravado, "Yeah, right Toad," he says as the sun begins to rise on a new day, "We'll take 'em all on." The new day is also the morning of change. High school is over and Curt goes back east to college, setting in motion all the events listed in the epitaphs that appear in the sky as his plane rises into the sky and XERB fades to static.
This echoes in my head today as I watch another school year come to a close, and I prepare to acknowledge my fifteenth year as a California resident, and the end of my tenth year as a teacher. This year we will only be saying goodbye to a couple of teachers, but it's another pair of names added to a list that I can now just barely recall, let alone recite. I'm always happy for those of my colleagues who move on to greener pastures, or at least lest stressful ones, but I continue to cling to the tiniest bit of resentment. I think I know why John Milner slaps Curt on the cheek just before he gets on the plane. Down the hall, third graders are packing up their desks, getting ready to move into my room with brand new workbooks and sharpened pencils. I'm coming back because I hold on to a belief that I don't know if the person coming in to fill my spot will do any better, and these kids deserve the best. If I'm not the best, at least I'm the best they've got. For now, we'll take 'em all on, Toad.