On a recent Friday, I found myself in CVS waiting for my mom to pick up a “few things.” As I lingered, I ran into John Coggins, a guy I have known for more than 12 years. His daughter Emma played on the same kindergarten soccer team as my daughter Anna, and over the years, we have run into each other at countless school and athletic events and would chat about our kids.
As fate would have it on that particular Friday, our daughters would be graduating from Suffield High School the next day.
It occurred to me as we were talking that this might be the last time we actually run into each other. Suffield’s a small town, but you can go years without seeing someone. Oh, sure, there’s the occasional trips to the store, library or local restaurant, but they lack the magnitude of a kid event. When my son played little league, I saw just about every Suffield parent I knew at the field’s snack bar. I haven’t seen some of those same people in 15 years.
I mentioned this to John and, on cue, another Suffieldian, Carolyn Blighton, whom I met at church, which we started attending in part for the kids, confirmed my theory. Her kids are grown and gone, and she hasn’t seen many of the families she knew through her kids.
Our children are immense social vectors. If it wasn’t for school, sports, clubs or their friends, we might not meet anybody in town.
At commencement the following day, I saw dozens of families that filled in the chapters of my daughter’s childhood. The parents of Anna’s third grade friends sat a few rows in front of us. Her Brownie leader sat a few rows behind us. Her soccer coach sat to the right of us. And, as I moved to get a good photo angle of the graduates making their entrance, her high school volleyball coach shooed me back to my seat.
With each student that crossed the field to receive their diploma, I heard the voices of families who not too long ago made the same cheers at school concerts, plays and games.
It all went by too fast.
Our kids may have graduated, but it doesn’t mean we have to go back to being strangers.
I told John (after letting him know I would be writing this column) that if I run into him in any Suffield establishment, to expect me to make a ton of small talk.
Our kids may be moving on, but we’re still here.