Today is Leo’s last day in Kindergarten.
Just looking at that sentence makes me fall into grief.
Yesterday, in celebration for their hard work as Kindergarteners, the parents were invited for a Recitation and Ice Cream Social. Now, at Leo’s school, the concept of a recitation is nothing new. It’s part of their School of Oratory curriculum, and they learn how to speak in front of a group, how to communicate effectively, how to make eye-contact and etc. But this was the first time they spoke in front of parents, so it was a big deal.
What’s more: they were reciting poems that they themselves had written. As part of their unit on insects, each kid learned everything they could about a bug, and wrote a poem about their bug. Leo chose spiders. “Why spiders,” I asked. “Because spiders are awesome,” he said.
To get ready to write his poem, he wanted to look at every youtube video ever made that had a spider in it. Like this one:
“I like to know how they move,” he said. “Also how gross they are.”
I arrived a little early with my assigned contribution (caramel syrup; on sale), and was greeted with the requisite Kindergarteney hugs (Look! It’s Leo’s mom! I love Leo’s mom!). I always get hugs from Leo’s class. This is partially because they think I’m funny, but it’s mostly because they love Leo. Because he is funny.
There was a little podium in the front of the room, set up on a small wooden dais. One by one, the Kindergarteners walked up, took the podium, recited their poems, and bowed.
Then, it was Leo’s turn. Leo the class clown. Leo the constant performer. Leo who was sent to the principal’s office during his first week as a Kindergartener. That Leo. He stood up, took the stage, paused to gaze at the audience and made a silly face. The other Kindergarteners thought it was hilarious. He took the podium and cleared his throat.
The Awesomest Spider
By Leo Barnhill
The Spider will leap to its prey
it will quietly creep.
The Spider is big.
The Spider dances a jig.
The Kindergarteners erupted with cheers. It was, as far as they were concerned, the best poem that had ever been written, or would ever be written. Leo bowed, then raised his hands in a two-fisted Victory sign. The crowd went wild.
And then, as his piece de resistance, he lifted his shirt, exposed his bare belly and chest, and rolled his stomach muscles like a belly dancer.
He was escorted out of the room.
Later that day, as he played at the playground and I sat on the bench, decompressing (did I wish for a gin and tonic? Or two? Why yes, ladies and gentlemen. Yes I did.), fifteen different Kindergarteners came up to me and gave me a hug.
“Thank you for putting Leo in my class,” one kid said.
“Leo is my favorite friend,” another kid said.
And last, the kid who gave me no less than four hugs that afternoon, motioned for me to lean down so she could tell me a secret. “Leo,” she whispered, “is my hero.”
“Mine too,” I whispered back, as my son, oblivious to our conversation, scooped up handful after handful of playground woodchips, and shoved them in his pants.