Tuesday, 27 July 2010

End of an era

It’s the end of an era: after years together, as a team, a family, they’re moving on to pastures new. Childhood is over, a new chapter is beginning, another phase. Something intangible is lost forever. It’s so sad.

Middle One leaving primary school? No, actually, I'm referring to the new Toy Story movie we saw on Sunday, but the parallels are uncanny.

I’ve spent a lot of the last ten days in tears and Toy Story 3 didn’t help. My blubbing started when Woody, Buzz, Jessie, et al, think they’re going to die: sliding toward the fiery abyss they stop trying to fight it, they look into each other’s eyes, they link hands. So brave! And I cried from then on.

(Spoiler alert: don't read this next bit if you haven't seen the movie.)

When Andy gives his toys away, I couldn’t look at the screen - they’re animated characters, for God’s sake, digital creations, nothing more than a load of pixels! But my children have grown up with Buzz, Woody and the gang, particularly Eldest, who’s the same age as the first movie (I think it came out in 1996). And there he is, sitting just a few seats along in the darkened cinema, next to his younger brothers, taller than me now, legs sprawled out in front of him, nearly all grown up, just like Andy. At least we’ve actually got him to the cinema with us for this whole-family outing: an increasingly rare event.

I suppose the crying began at the school play a week before, at the moment I heard, “when I grow older, I will be stronger, they call me freedom, just like a waving flag,” to be precise. Youngest had been singing the lyrics round and round the kitchen for days and their familiarity, and poignancy, was unnerving suddenly heard again in the charged atmosphere of an end-of-term production. It was too much for me. Growing older, getting stronger, all of it so significant at the moment with Middle One reaching the end of primary school and Youngest struggling to recover from a broken collar bone (again). And then on Thursday there was the leavers' assembly…

Strangely, I didn’t cry during the assembly itself, although I expected to and I took tissues along especially. In the event, the atmosphere was jolly, quite upbeat, maybe because there wasn’t any music or singing until the end. I heard that the Headteacher was determined there shouldn’t be any, “hysteria,” like last year. And there wasn’t. By the time Middle One stood up to read his memories, receive his award, take his certificate, it just felt right: time for him to move on, like Andy in Toy Story (see what I mean about the parallels!).

Still, I know I’m losing a little piece of him: his primary school persona, and our precious chats on the way to and from school. Inevitably, I will no longer be so involved in his life. I won’t see, and partake, in the little details. The secondary school world he is about to inhabit is largely unknown to me: I don’t know the lay-out of the buildings, I don’t know the teachers or the curriculum. It’s a whole new environment for him to explore and for me to observe from the sidelines.

Struggling him into his new uniform - the oversized blazer, the stiff white shirt, the scratchy trousers - he suddenly looked strange, alien, and just like all the rest: another sausage for their sausage factory. His clothes have been such a big part of his identity at primary school: ludicrously tight skinny jeans, brightly coloured converse trainers, rock group t-shirts, Rolling Stones courier bag slung casually across his shoulder: I will miss it. And I will miss seeing his familiar, loping frame descending the Year 6 stairs as he chats to his friends, and watching him rise from the bench at Friday assembly to read a piece of work. That little boy has gone, never to return.

Thank goodness there’s another, younger brother.


Dear Guardian reader: any resemblance between the sentiments expressed in this blog and Tim Dowling’s column on Monday in G2 are entirely coincidental…and rather spooky! I wrote this on Sunday after seeing Toy Story 3.

And also...

Dear all and any-type of reader: this is my last entry for a while. I’m taking the summer off and will return to blogging the week beginning Monday 6th September. Happy holidays!

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