My grand-neice graduated last Friday night. I should add that she graduated from pre-school, so I’m not quite as old as that first sentence suggests.
Actually, I’m every bit as old as that first sentence suggests. Unlike most kids, I never thought mid-30s was ancient when I was little, mainly because I was the surprise child of older parents, and most of the people we knew had long since left their 30s behind. Now that I have attained the age of 35, however, I’m beginning to realize just how far up the hill I actually am, and how much nearer I am getting to going over it. I can tell this by the growing stock of memories that occasionally crowd to the front of my brain. I know I’m getting a ways up the mountain because of the extensive view I now have when I look back.
Friday night was certainly an occasion for remembering the past. The preschool our little princess attended is run by the Christian school that I attended from kindergarten through 12th grade. Her preschool graduation included some of the same songs and Bible verses that I remembered from my early education, and — who knows? Those might have even been the same caps and gowns. They certainly looked the same. Above all, there were the people that I knew, that I had worked with in the past. These were people I had done ministry with in Christian education, and whose testimony and service to the kingdom are so very precious to me.
In short, I had the same experience that often comes to us when we go back to a place (a house, a school, a church) we once knew well but have not seen in a long time. It is not just a familiar sight, but a familiar feeling that washes over us and soaks into the heart. I had never been inside the church that hosted Sam’s graduation before Friday, but there was that feeling all the same because the program was familiar and so were the people:
I remember on the night of my kindergarten graduation, I wore a white flouncy dress and a big red mark right in the middle of my forehead. The red mark was from the camera I had been playing with before we left for the event. It was a really old Kodak camera (old even for 1980), and it had a square flash bulb that you bought separately and screwed into the top of the camera. I was fascinated by this device, and I longed to take a picture with it. When no one was looking, I held it up to my eyes (as I thought had seen the big people do) and clicked.
What I remember next is a blinding and burning flash of light that must have made me yell because everyone came running. As it turns out, I had been holding the camera backwards, and the burning sensation was from the flash bulb going off against my forehead. It didn’t hurt much, but I couldn’t convince the grown-ups that I hadn’t been trying to take a picture of myself, and it must have left quite a mark because all my friends asked me about it.
I remember, too, that some of the graduates got special awards that night, and I never could figure out what they were for. My mother commented afterwards that they must have been the students who made “straight A’s.” This made me rather indignant. I had been in kindergarten for a whole year, and I did not make crooked A’s. Why hadn’t anyone told me my A’s weren’t straight enough?
I bring up these childish memories because they are an indication of how our perspectives change over time. I honestly have no idea what Samantha will remember about preschool or the teachers who taught her. I don’t know what she’ll remember about her graduation night, or even what she’ll someday remember about me or the rest of the family members who came to share her big event.
I do hope that she remembers what she learned. I hope she remembers, not just the books of the Bible, but to read the Bible and give its precepts an honored place in her life. I hope she remembers those Sunday School songs about Jesus because they are true — every one of them. I hope she remembers that she is part of our family of aunts, uncle, sister, Mom, and grandparents. But I also hope she learns and remembers that she is part of a bigger family of believers that meet together, learn together, love each other and serve each other with gladness.
And I hope, too, that she will someday have the joy that I have continuously, of meeting her fellow believers and remembering the work they did together that had eternal weight and glory. I am in a season of transition right now, and much of what I do is still new and strange to me, but I can say moving forward that the best memories I have of the past are those that involve “kingdom collaboration” — God’s work done with God’s people. I hope my neices find that happiness as well.