“Are you gonna cry?” my mother asked as we walked towards the school gymnasium.
“No,” I answered quickly before quipping, “At least, not in front of anyone.”
We made it to the entrance where two teachers were collecting tickets from all the spectators who came to watch their children, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews get promoted from the 8th grade into high school.
“We hafta show you where to sit,” Baby B told me once we were inside. I followed him down the stairs and into the already packed gymnasium. I continued to follow my boys across what is normally a basketball court until they both walked right by the last set of bleachers, heading towards the cafeteria.
“Um, where are you going?” I inquired.
“We hafta go get ready,” Baby A answered.
“I thought you were supposed to show me where to sit?”
Baby B gestured towards the entire left side of the gymnasium. “Anywhere over there since that’s the side we’ll be sitting on.” They both then disappeared into the double doorway where the rest of their class awaited them.
I sneaked a look at my mother. “They could have just told us that.” Her shrug seemed to say, “Hey, they’re your kids.”
We found a place in the bleachers where there was enough room for myself, my mother, and my father, who would be joining us in just a few minutes.
My mother and I chatted a few minutes before my dad called me to let me know he had arrived. I made my way back to the entrance, handed him his ticket, and lead him back to our seats.
Before sitting down, he pulled a piece of paper out of his breast pocket and handed it to my mother. “Here. I thought you’d get a charge out of this.”
I glanced at the paper, which was a picture of a beaten down, disheveled, brown, two-story house obviously taken from Google maps. The lawn was unkept and various pieces were dangling off the front of the house. Confusion was evident on my mother’s face. It was clear she had no idea exactly what she was supposed to get a charge out of.
“That’s the house in Detroit. On (some street name I can not recall).”
My mother’s eyes lit up with recognition. My dad continued. “The lot on either side of the house is empty.” And by empty, he didn’t mean vacant. The houses were literally gone, a testament to how bad things have gotten in my hometown.
My dad then spoke to me. “That’s the house your mother and I lived in after we got married. The house you were conceived in.”
My father still doesn’t know what amount of information is too much. “Oh, great. . .” I acknowledge, my voice laced with sarcasm.
Undeterred, my father continued. “Second floor if you really want to know.” Evidently a parent’s job of embarrassing his or her children is never finished.
My mother chimed in. “This is the house we got Bunky in.” Bunky was our family dog.
I got lost in my thoughts for a few minutes, wondering why my dad had been reminiscing about a time in his life spent with a woman he divorced over 23 years ago. Eventually discussion of the picture faded and we began talking about what was going on in each of our respective lives until the ceremony began at 6:30.
The ceremony, as these events tend to do, dragged on and on and on and on. The teachers strode purposefully into the room first, in rows of two. Then the students. All 180+ of them, two at a time. I idly wondered how this was going to play out in four years when there will likely be 300 to 400 students in their graduating class.
The students eventually filled every seat on the floor and the principal began the ceremony. I spent most of the ceremony watching the twins, observing how they interacted with their peers. They laughed. They smiled. They joked. As I monitored them I was filled with a hurricane of emotions I can’t rightly quantify. Pride. Bittersweet joy. Confusion. I was awestruck that somehow the little boys who used to tell me bedtime stories are beginning to hatch from their cocoons to lead the lives of the butterflies they’re destined to be.
Awards were handed out to the students who had scored the highest GPA in each individual subject. Each subject had an award for a boy and one for a girl, prompting me to wonder why we still segregate by gender. After the awards were exhausted they called each student up to receive their promotion certificate. I tried to snap pictures as the principal handed them out, but unlike every other part of this ceremony (which had dragged) this part of the ceremony passed like a strike of lightning. Baby B was already walking off the stage before my camera could focus and snap a picture and Baby A was already off the stage before my camera was ready to take another. I had to stop them both in the back of the gym so I could snap a picture of them both with their certificates.
The ceremony was then over, and we were free to leave. We went home and back to life as normal, but life will not be normal again. At least, not in the way it has been. Life will develop a new normal. The boys begin laying the foundation of their adult lives now. Every decision they make and every action they take will have far-reaching consequences. I’ll do my damnedest to help them make the best decisions possible.
I am now the proud parent of two high school freshman.
Shit just got real.