A Reflection By: Dr. Jacki Hart
Today is Memorial Day. Ordinarily, like most Americans, I look forward to this holiday as a marker for the start of summer. Living in New England, you can’t count on the weather being warm; but, you can count on activities that signify the sunny solstice. Except this year, when the only holiday seems to be Groundhog Day, Bill Murray style.
Like others, we planned a homespun celebration for last night replete with barbeque, firepit, and outdoor movie night; only four guests and our dog would be attending. Despite the forethought and set up, all plans divulged into a good old-fashioned family feud – not between families, but within our own family.
Everyone is weary. This is hard. Hardest, for sure, on my 17-year-old high school senior who is longing for the chance to feel that freedom and sense of achievement that comes, not just from prom and the graduation ceremony, but from walking the hallways recognizing that you’ve made it. The confidence and self-esteem that builds naturally from the freshman looking up at you with envy, imagining the day that they will get there too.
He deserves that. They deserve that. I’m super sad for him and for all of them.
Truthfully, I’m sad for me too. I dutifully watched the three-hour Oprah graduation special and loved the student highlights from each state across the country. The next day, I shed more tears watching Lebron and Obama. As I felt the drops drip down my cheeks and my voice choke up, I realized that I was crying not only for my son and his cohort, but for myself as well. I’ve also been waiting for this moment for 12 years – to watch him walk across the podium, shake hands with (or perhaps hug) each administrator, and toss his tassel.
I’m incredibly proud of him and what he has accomplished. He’s a dedicated, impassioned student who has applied himself Every. Single. Year. In Every. Single. Class. He is civically engaged and has made his mark not just on his high school, but on our community. He deserves the feeling of satisfaction that comes from the whole senior-wrap-up experience.
I know he is destined to do important and worthwhile things. He cares deeply about social justice, equity, and fairness. However, that does not negate the feeling that he is being ripped off by the current circumstances, as are millions of other students this year.
I hope the sage words of Obama and others prove to be correct – that the students will look back on the crazy COVID conclusion to their high school years and think of it as more memorable than it might have been. That students of this era who have witnessed, firsthand, the drastic highlighting of countless social ills will be propelled into action. That, perhaps due to the pandemic, many who are coming of age will assume activities, professionally and personally, to make the world a better place.
My son had arrived there, with the conviction to contribute, before this mess. Maybe now he’ll have more company on the road to repair and recovery. In the meantime, at this very moment, however, it simply feels unfair.