On Wednesday (July 1st) I attended my eldest nephew’s high school graduation ceremony. I don’t know what such ceremonies are like at other high schools – Eitan attends the Experimental High School, which has a very open and unstructured attitude to education – but this was a lovely ceremony, conducted, for the most part, by the graduating students themselves. Tables were set out in the school courtyard, refreshments (of a very high quality) were prepared by the parents and the students put on an artistic programme which started with a belly-dance performed by one of the girls (I jokingly remarked that her father must be having an apoplexy, but it was really all very innocent), progressed to songs performed by a student band and included (how not?) some wickedly funny impersonations of teachers and other staff members. There was also a sketch performed by some of the parents.
Since my sister (Eitan’s Mum) has been holding Open House on the eve of Independence Day for Eitan and Tamir’s classmates and their parents, for almost as far back as I can remember, you could say I’ve watched these kids grow up. How amazing then, to find I couldn’t seem to recognise them. The boys in shirts and ties (in some cases, even in suits), the girls in makeup and clingy, revealing dresses – why, only yesterday it seemed they would, on principle, wear nothing but torn jeans and scruffy tee-shirts!
Where did eighteen years vanish so quickly? Last month, Eitan got his driving licence (at his first attempt too. Grrrr!) Later this summer, most of his classmates will be starting their military service. Eitan himself has volunteered for a year’s National Service as a counsellor in his youth movement before going into the army – this, at a time when more and more young people are draft-dodging. I am so proud of him. We all are. But I feel, somehow, as if I’ve missed something. It’s not that I wasn’t there. It’s just that I didn’t savour each moment of his childhood and adolescence sufficiently. It’s like the difference between hearing background music and actually sitting down and listening to, and appreciating, each rich level of harmony. And – I can’t deny it – watching those kids on the threshold of their adult lives made me feel so – well, middle-aged.
I went home Wednesday night and cried.
Not for their vanished years.
For my own.