There’s a three-part round of awards ceremonies for the high school around here, and mostly the same group of kids get all the awards. Eleanor was one of those kids, and now Walker–who we found out last night is number three in his class–has been on stage a lot, receiving accolades (and, last night, a scholarship!). It is of course fun to see, and it’s fun to trade congratulations with the other parents, especially the ones who haven’t seen Walker much since his elementary school days or his traveling soccer team days. It’s interesting to find out where the other seniors are planning to go to college, or what they plan to do next.
What is the most fun is seeing Walker and his friends crossing the stage, being celebrated repeatedly as the best and brightest. I never get tired of that.
Once I told Walker that the deadly sin I am most prone to is pride. Is there anything bigger and more obvious than a mother’s pride for her youngest child? All these ceremonies are the last ones, and the splendor of his accomplishments has whisked us through them with a sense of culminating triumph. I hardly even have the decency to act modest, which reminds me of the opening line of “On Distinction” by A.F. Moritz:
We won’t pretend we’re not hungry for distinction
but what can ever distinguish us enough?
This country, this language won’t last long, the race
will die, later the cockroach, earth itself,
and last this beer bottle: silicon fused by man,
almost indestructible, like a soul:
it will go spinning ever farther from the nearest thing
until space, continually deepening, drowns in itself.
Yet we keep a hungry eye on old schoolmates
and everyone born in the year of our own birth,
and spend the nights in ranting over them,
their money, fashionable companions, pliant critics.
To live just a little longer than they do:
that would be triumph. Hence exercise and diets,
and the squabble over who will write the history
of this paradise of demons casting each other out.
After all these years of noticing whose kid appeared in a photo in the local newspaper, next year I won’t be at the awards ceremonies, to write about the accomplishments of the kids Walker started school with. They will blaze for a moment, while he will be finding his way in a bigger world, where the other parents will not remember the song he sang at the fifth grade talent show or who wore the plastic breastplate at his sixth birthday party.