Remembering it all

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 22, 2003

They stood in an almost straight line at the door, trying to keep their arms at their sides and their hands off the white caps on their heads.

LillieAnna, the leader, shifted from one foot to another as she waited as patiently as a graduate her age is able to wait. Near the end of the group, Austin was quiet while Jordan fought to keep the cap on his head.

I watched the Bright Beginnings Class of 2003 prepare to receive the diplomas that meant they were now ready to become kindergarten students. Looking at their faces, I remembered another graduation.

It was years ago before the parents of the Bright Beginnings kids were even born. Mrs. Jackson's Jack and Jill Kindergarten graduates waited in the wings, wearing their stiff caps and pressed gowns.

The graduation exercise, like the one for Bright Beginnings, was the last part of the program. First the rhythm band, in snappy uniforms, played a few selections. Then there was the Tom Thumb wedding, a huge production complete with bride, groom, flower girl and preacher.

How well I remember the days leading up to graduation night. I can still hear the creaky wood floors in the old Opp High School auditorium as we marched in a line to the stage. We giggled our way through rehearsals barely containing the excitement that was building inside our little bodies.

On Monday that same excitement was running through the all the students at Bright Beginnings as they rehearsed in the new Family Life Center. Trying to keep the older ones, as well as Mrs. Danita's three-year-old class, still long enough to recite the nursery rhymes they learned for the program was, to say the least, a challenge. It was anybody's guess how they would behave the day of the program.

Of course when show time arrived, they came through with flying colors, even though Jordan and his cap struggled to the very end.

As they walked up to Mrs. Page and received a final hug from the teacher who was a part of their lives for so many months, they smiled with pride.

Later with the caps and gowns discarded, the graduates, who minutes before posed for a picture looking like little adults, returned to child status as they enjoyed cake and punch.

"I remember my kindergarten graduation," I said to Mrs. Linda, the teacher's aide. "Funny after all these years, I still remember how I felt."

"I remember mine too," Mrs. Linda said, smiling.

Freddie, Carolann, Elizabeth, Barbara, they are part of my memory as surely as Beth, Bailey, Trevor, Corbrecia, Jordan, Austin, LillieAnna, Bradley, Shuna, Shemar, Jaylon and Donnamy will remember each other when they look back across the years to graduation day at Bright Beginnings.

The days they spent together remain a part of who they are no matter where life takes them. The 2003 graduation exercises will become a sweet memory of an innocent time when singing the school song and getting a congratulatory hug from a teacher was something special.

I know this is true because I remember another graduation so many years ago.