The Very Last Day of School
His friend Emil had moved to Minnesota in the winter, and apparently, everything was shot to hell after that. Richie added that three of Johnny's friends weren't nice to him. (One by my count, but who am I to begrudge a good old fashioned exaggeration.)
And, also, he said, when Emil left, the class took pictures and made a special scrapbook and everyone was really sad.
I said, "So you would like that to happen again, only this time with you being the center of attention."
He nodded his head earnestly. "Yeah," he said. "I would."
So he told his friends yesterday he wouldn't be back next year. He'd be going to J.J.'s school, where everybody is nice and kids don't move to Minnesota.
When he came home from school, I asked him how his friends reacted when he broke the news. (Richie is going back to his old school, by the way, but again, who am I to begrudge a good old-fashioned going away party in which the person isn't actually going anywhere?)
They took it hard, Richie said. At first, his friend Jackson cheered because he hadn't been listening carefully. Then when Richie repeated himself, Jackson exclaimed, "Oh, no!" Richie smiled widely as he re-enacted Jackson's utter disappointment.
I asked Richie, "Do you think they'll be surprised next year when you show up on the first day of school?"
"Yeah," he said. "But I'll probably wait nine years. Then I'll go back."
Later, as he, J.J. and I sat on the couch, he said, "My friends are going to the big school next year. You know why they call it the big school? Because there are big kids."
He added, "At my new school, I'll probably just be friends with J.J.'s friends."
As an armchair psychiatrist, I'd say Richie is nervous about leaving the small kindergarten building to attend the big bad big kid school across the street. So he's decided to go to a new school altogether. A school he's never been to, but apparently sees as a perpetual preschool, where even the big kids don't have a snarky bone in their body.
I suppose the change he can see coming is scarier than the one that's only in his imagination.
Or maybe he just wants that going away party. If only to remind himself he never wanted to leave in the first place.