Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Front Cuts

Last month, we had an all-staff meeting where a facilitator had us line up according to how many years we had been at school. It was pretty amazing to see 50 plus people snaking around the room and more than a little astounding to realize that my wife and I (in that order) were in the front of the line! Of course, it was no surprise, but to physically see it all in front of us (or rather, behind us) was a graphic physical rendition of a rather abstract fact. My wife later commented something to the effect of “Oh my God! We’re the grownups?!” Rather sobering to realize that there was no Mommy or Daddy above to take care of things.

And so it is when our parents depart and we’re suddenly in the front of the line. That scary moment when we realize that we are the new elders and there is no buffer between us and the place where the line disappears. I think of all the kids pushing to be the line leader, determined that there will never be the gravest of all injustices—front cuts—if they have anything to do with it. I feel like telling them, “Hey, what’s your hurry? It’s not bad to be in the middle or the back of the line.” Of course, they kind of know that when they chant “First is the worst, second is the best, third is the one with the hairy chest!”

There is some kind of major flaw in evolution that we are always looking ahead with anticipation or behind with wistful nostalgia, convinced that any age is better than the one we’re living now. The little ones are so proud that they’re getting older and the older ones are longing to be younger. Today I stood in the preschool yard for a few minutes and watched the kids zooming around on tricycles, digging holes in the sand, fingerpainting and just generally following wherever their fancy led them and thought, “They really have a great deal here!” I know the Middle School kids struggling with quadratic equations and keeping their binders organized sometimes think so, though they also think it’s pretty cool that they can ride the bus by themselves, shop for their own outfits and dye their hair. Meanwhile, I had a friend turn 50 recently and found myself sighing, “Ah, the 50’s. Those were great years.”

For the moment, my wife and I both have a Mom ahead and maybe the rhyme is right—second in line is pretty good. But the inevitable moment of being in the front is approaching, be it sooner or later. Anyone want to front cut?

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