816 North

Susan Vollenweider | The peculiar perspective of passing time


That’s the sound of school bells singing the sweet song of summer release. All of the snow days from the unbelievably long winter have been paid back and students set free for, as my dear friends Phineas and Ferb say, “104 days of summer vacation.”

Thank goodness Phineas and Ferb are fictional. I don’t think I could handle 104 days. Our 78 is long enough, maybe too long.

Before that bell rang as we crossed the school year finish line, before we moved on to the lengthy summer break, I had two hurdles to leap: Cake Crawl Saturday and the second grade zoo field trip.

The graduation party invites began to roll in about a month ago and we received six for that Saturday. One was too far away, but I took the remaining as a challenge: Seven hours, five parties, four towns, three high schools, two states and one bound and determined me.

And five cakes. I would go even if there wasn’t cake, but there always is. Maybe cupcakes, or a cheesecake — but always a cake. I feel it is my obligation and honor to taste-test each one and toast the grad with my forkful.

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

On Cake Crawl Saturday I put on my cutest sandals, an outfit with a lot of elastic and my party smile. I crisscrossed town and state lines, stopping back home to swap out members of my entourage as their schedules permitted. The entire family attended two of the parties. I think, other than church, it’s the only place we have all been spotted together in a very long time.

Of course the cakes didn’t compare in brilliance to the bright and shiny new grads. All offered a confidently hopeful, and possibly rehearsed, plan for their futures. I studied the photo displays with great interest. The past 18 years of milestones and rites of passage illustrated on a tri-fold cardboard display.

And I studied the parents. All had similar looks of combined joy, relief and a touch of sadness. Parent love grows deeper and richer over time. The challenges of raising the class of 2013 showed with each hard earned, wistful smile.

Three days later, the class of 2023 got my attention.

Noah’s teacher handed me a small baggie of wrapped items. “Here’s a first aid kit.”

“What’s in here?” I asked.

“Band-Aids, wipes…,” she began and I interrupted her.


Apparently not.

This was the first time I had chaperoned the annual rite of our school’s second grade passage: The Zoo Field Trip. When my other kids were in second grade I had a pre-school age child and no daycare for him. It didn’t seem fair to anyone (especially me) to drag him around while simultaneously being responsible for a group of 8-year-olds.

Other than leading the pack of four students and carrying the first aid kit that we never needed, it was a pretty low stress day. Although we spent so long touring through Asia and Australia that I chanted through Africa, “Keep moving, we are on a schedule, let’s power through Africa, people. Power through!” At one point I told another mom, “I’m annoying myself,” and she didn’t argue with me.

When we got home I printed out some pictures of Noah at the zoo and realized that I had seen similar ones recently.

Then I got my own wistful smile.

Summer break of 78 days may seem lengthy but the 10 years between his second grade rite of passage and high school graduation suddenly didn’t seem long at all.