Remember when coloring outside the lines was viewed as budding self-expression, rather than contrariness, when laughing at our silly selves and the silliness of our friends was contagious and cathartic?
Remember when we made friends easily and unconditionally, when thrilling anticipation rather than chilling dread carried us to the next moment, the next minute and the next day?
Remember when a sense of community was practiced instead of preached, when non-family members pulled for you just as hard as your parents?
I was transported back to those days Wednesday during the graduation ceremony of my granddaughter and fellow members of the First Friend class of 2017 preschool graduates.
The audience, filled with extended family members and friends, gushed over how adorable the youthful graduates were wearing their caps and gowns and filing to their seats on stage to the accompaniment of pomp and circumstance.
And despite their young age, the children showed an emerging understanding of individual irresponsibility.
When asked what they saw themselves doing after preschool, for example, they were nearly unanimous in mentioning attending kindergarten, doing homework and playing. Some, like Jahzara, were quite precise about their upcoming schedule.
“I think homework,” was her answer to what she would be doing next.
“Only, I’ll take a little nap, go outside to learn about the world, then another little nap, more homework, circle time, playing on the playground and more naps.”
Kim Sullivan, the program’s director, gave the graduation address.
“Today is such a bittersweet day,” she said.
“We are so sad to say goodbye to these children we have spent so much time with, but at the same time we are so happy. They have grown and matured into wonderful little people. We are so proud of them.
“Please remember that we will always be interested in your child and their destinies. Wherever they go, whatever they do, whoever they become we will be happy to share their joy. We feel your child’s future will be bright. “
I truly believe that Kim and her staff are genuinely proud of their young charges’ development and that they are invested in the children’s continued growth. Some of the preschoolers had been with First Friend since they were infants.
Yet, I couldn’t help thinking of how we seem to be living our lives in two dimensions by adhering to the intransigence of the world created by adults while catering to the open-mindedness of the one colored by the imagination our children.
On Wednesday, I listened to the children laughing and making observations as each photograph of a slideshow of their preschool experience flashed on the screen. Their carefree world was a comfort to me in its rebuttal of the one I had left outside the door of their graduation room that very day.
Outside that door, the air was charged with the exploits of a gunman who had opened fire on members of the Republican congressional baseball team during a practice session at a field in a suburb of Washington, D.C.
Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives, and four others, including two Capitol police officers, were struck by bullets. Mr. Scalise is hospitalized with critical injuries.
The gunman, who was killed in an exchange of fire with the police, appeared to have deliberately targeted Republicans, leading to finger pointing on both sides of the political spectrum as to the genesis of such raw and public terror.
But finger pointing is another name for a circular firing squad.
I am wondering how it is that adults have strayed so far from the cherished community of preschool rituals to the destructive disunity in our tribal politics.
I don’t think it’s an inevitable transformation. You wouldn’t think so either if you were to witness the comradeship displayed by the members of the First Friend preschool class of 2017 – Levi, Jayden, Kaelyn, Kristina, Talia, Mose, Emiliano, Luke, Owen, Jacob, Emma, Autumn, Marie, Jahzara, Mac and Benjamin.
Maybe we adults need to do more homework on solving our differences. We don’t need to have all the answers, just the courage to try, as Jacob so succinctly noted about his upcoming kindergarten experience.
“I’ll be in kindergarten doing homework, and I don’t even know how to do homework,” he said.