I volunteered for the job. Not because I haven't done my part as a parent at my son's middle school, but because I knew that the time for me to stand behind a table and sell baked goods was slipping away. It also gave me a unique vantage point from which I could observe my son's last performance with his middle school jazz band.
From the back of the cafetorium, I stood and watched the group shamble on the stage. There were some hoots and some hollers. The audience was hip to the notion that for many of these kids it would be the last time they played together on this stage. I could see boys and girls who had been in school with my son since kindergarten, and I knew that they would soon be going their separate ways in high school: some up the hill, some across town. I know that they will write their e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers in each other's yearbooks, but it won't be the same. Their world has expanded.
Never was this more apparent then the walk up the hill to the show. My wife and I watched as our son pushed on ahead of us, searching out his friends in the crowd. Friends we have only heard stories about. Not the ones who used to come over for arranged playdates. The ones who had Spanish with him, or stood next to him in Gym. As I stood behind the dozens of chocolate chip cookies, I watched these associations ricochet around the room. Budding romances were everywhere. Packs of boys moved around in a swirling mass and girls huddled close for secrets as the jazz band prepared to play.
The show itself was a good one. It wasn't as memorable as their Oktoberfest gig, or my son's nerve-jangling first recital, but he got something special this time. After two years worth of concerts, his teacher gave him a shout out before the next to last number. "And on piano..." He sat up a little straighter and smiled out into the darkness. Back at the bake sale, I smiled back, and I looked forward to what high school might bring.