There is a tradition at my son's high school called "Senior Sunrise." Near the beginning of the school year, all the seniors gather at the school before their day begins to watch the sun come up and acknowledge the opening of what will be their final Fall together. For many, this will be a celebration that has roots all the way back to Kindergarten. My son will be rubbing elbows with pals he made back on the playground at his elementary school. There will be faces he remembers from middle school. There will be more friends who used to live in the neighborhood, and though they have moved away, they still cross paths in the hallways. Then there's the group of friends he has forged out of the past three years: his group. The ones who gather to talk about cars and music and cars and movies and cars and whether this girl really likes him or not and still more cars. Or maybe that's just my son talking about cars, but the bonds he has made while attending Oakland public schools are strong. I don't know if I can credit the district or the city, but I do know that my son has some very good friends.
It is the beginning of the end. It was an outright notice of the things that have been tumbling out of his mouth over the past month or two: "Wow, next year at this time, I won't even be here." That sound you hear is that of breaking hearts. His parents mostly, but I know that he's feeling it a little bit too. This is, after all, the same kid who waited until he was in high school before he allowed himself to be fully comfortable sleeping away from home. I remember the phone calls and the negotiations. I remember the tears. Now he talks about how much he is looking forward to going away.
I know he doesn't mean us. We're great parents. I know this because my son tells us this on a somewhat frequent basis. I know that if he did stay forever he might begin to resent us. There's a great big world out there full of cars that he has only read about. He has to go see them.
At the end of the school year, there is a "Senior Sunset." It is the bookend to the Sunrise. None of us will talk about looking forward to that ritual. Not now. There are still far too many moments to dwell on during this, his senior year in high school. His last year in Oakland Public Schools. Speaking as a member of that particular tribe, we'll miss him.