Thursday, 6 October 2016

Debutante Ball - Class of 2016

We got lost on the way, a teacher driving behind a parent on route to the The High School debutante ball at The Radisson Hotel; not a great start I grant you.  And when we dipped into the car park I felt like Orpheus slipping into The Underworld, a little uneasy, as teachers always are at these events, in case you forget someone's name or you say the wrong thing.  But I was there to see the kids, to see them off for the last time, to mark the end of their six years at The High School, and if the worst came to the worst I could always hide behind my camera and pretend to be working.  
Two steps out of the car and I was hailed from the shadows by a kind High School parent who called me 'Miss' and by my surname, and I immediately felt at ease. The pupils would be along shortly I was told, so we waited in the reception room, circled together like wagons in a western; I could sense a little anxiety. The talk was of their children's first day at university , an exam some had tomorrow, how they were still settling in to their college courses. Some had been under the weather, 'all those new germs', new people, new places.  'Just like when they started creche!' someone said and I could suddenly see it in their eyes - the anxiety of the new parent on the first day of school.  They were going through it all again, the hope of success, the pain of separation, something I knew something about.  'This is the end of 12 years at The High School for our family', said another shakily.  "That's something..." 
And with the phrase still hanging in the air, there was a whir of excitement, a blur of colour and suddenly they were there, the butterflies and peacocks, with laughter and news, embraces and that sense of camaraderie that is so special to High School pupils. Gone were their baggy, black jumpers, and ponytails: in a matter of months they had transformed into fully grown, radiant young men and women, every one at least two inches taller I was certain.  "I've changed course Miss. I'm doing English after all!" ... "I'm still writing everyday, but Maths is creative too, Miss."  And then I glimpsed a boy bending down to kiss his mother's upturned cheek - a goodbye.  The parents, judging the time to leave far better than I, seemed to melt away.  So again I followed, casting one last, backward glance at the Class of 2016, golden under yellow light, those pupils who had taught me so much during their time at The High School.  I left, passing up, out of The Underworld, to a star-filled sky.  There'd be no getting lost this time, and I suddenly knew, this was no true ending, rather a commencement.  And I consigned the evening to memory, for I had not taken a photograph, not a single one.

Michelle Burrowes.

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