Archived Opinion

Dreams are now memories, and a line’s been crossed

For years, Tuscola High School’s location high on the hill overlooking the Lakeside Plaza, a fragment of Lake Junaluska, and the Paragon Parkway, seemed like a metaphor to me. When our kids were still in elementary school and later in middle school, we would frequently drive by the entrance on our way to the fitness center, peer upward, and dream about the days that would surely come when they would take their turns as high school students “way up there.” 

The kids are conveniently spaced four years apart, so we knew that we would be spending eight consecutive years as “high school parents,” and all that might entail, including countless hours of dropping them off and picking them up from all kinds of practices and school events, or attending performances and ceremonies and meetings and who knew what all? 

Eight years! That’s two entire presidential terms. Remember when you were 12? Remember when you were 20? Weren’t there several lifetimes between those two ages? Could you comprehend being 20 when you were 12, when it was too much even to comprehend turning 16 and being entrusted for the first time to drive your mother’s Toyota RAV 4 to the grocery store ON YOUR OWN. Remember that heady rush of empowerment suffused with responsibility and tension? 

In other words, we couldn’t fathom our kids — in their youth baseball uniforms and recital dresses — as teenagers learning how to shave and solving for X in algebra class, much less getting their driver’s license and taking themselves to and from things. 

But of course the day came just as days always do, and we were suddenly transporting our nervous daughter up that steep hill to Tuscola High School one fine morning, a morning that was as strange and surreal as a Dali painting to both of us. We were startled by the view, which was even more magnificent than we had envisioned.  

“Can you imagine having a house up here?” 

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I couldn’t imagine having a child up there, much less a house. Even so, our adventure had begun. 

“You remember when we used to talk about this, all those years?” my wife said, as we looked out over the valley from the high school parking lot. 

Now it was here at last, our eight-year hitch at Tuscola High. We stood there a moment, taking it all in. The abstraction had become real. Eight years was an ocean of time. It filled the valley before us. We wondered what it would be like to float in it for so long. 

Last Thursday, we attended our final band concert at the high school. Our son is a senior now. Like his sister, who finished up four years ago, he was part of the marching band, beginning as bass drummer before realizing his dream to play tenor. 

On the way there it hit us. Our eight years were up. We would no longer have any particular reason for driving up that hill, nothing specific we needed to do there, no event we especially needed to see or document. 

Once again, Tuscola High School will become an abstraction, now a repository for memories instead of dreams. Now we will drive by and remember when. When our daughter made her first friend, an older girl at band practice petting a kitten and inviting her over to do the same, or when our son got a chance to be part of the drum line, drumming all the way back to the band room from the parking lot after practice every night. 

We will remember the little things. Dropping off a forgotten form or textbook, or bringing them a clean shirt, or, of course, money for a hundred different reasons. Or waiting in our car for them to finish practice, and then trying to be patient when they lingered among a cluster of friends, mugging and cutting up. This would all be over one day, and we would miss it. 

We said that a lot. We said it on long days when we were tired, and they came home grouchy and complaining. We said it on hard days, when one of us had a lot of work to do and might be coming down with something on top of that, but we still drove five hours to see them do a 15-minute show in a band competition. 

We said it when they didn’t do as well as they hoped on a test, or in a class, and wanted to argue about setting aside enough time for homework and a decent night’s rest. 

We said it when there was drama with teachers, or within their shape-shifting friend groups. We said it whenever they were sad, or angry, or utterly exhausted. 

We said, “This will be over one day, and we will miss it.” 

And now it is, and we already do.

(Chris Cox is a writer and teacher who lives in Haywood County. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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