Lis Johnson: In the Blink of an Eye

Friday, July 9, 2021

By Lis Johnson

Over the long weekend, I went into our home office for the annual clearing of the bulletin board. 

Old receipts, appointment cards, reminders and reminders of reminders. As I took down the school calendar, I had a moment — one of those that leaves you standing flat-footed, staring at nothing in particular — when I realized as I hadn’t before that this coming fall will be the first time in nearly 20 years I won’t have a school calendar on the board.

Our youngest son graduated from high school last month. His older brother started kindergarten in 2002, so the school calendar has been a through-line in our lives for close to two decades.

In the early days, I would go through the calendar when it arrived, circling in red Sharpie all the half-days, teacher work days, holidays and breaks, not to mention penciled in play dates, birthday parties, and field trips, band and choir practice, performances and ballgames.

After smart phones arrived, these days were put on the phone calendar, with appropriate reminders, but the influence remained. Our days off, our vacations, our time was directed by the calendar in one way or another.

And suddenly, I don’t need one any more. As my sons go onto their bigger lives, my own life, my own choices and days, will return to being mine again. For the most part, anyway. And frankly, it feels odd. 

Odd in a way that graduation, sending out announcements and taking photos didn’t quite grasp — the change that was coming. The change that is here.

When our oldest son graduated, we still had another five years to go with the calendar. The bulletin board is full of holes in the cork-board, where calendars were taken up and down, months rolled over and on and on, a flip of the page, the turn of a season, until one day, seemingly out of nowhere, we don’t need it anymore.

I’m reminded of the quote in Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” when a character is asked how he went bankrupt. “Two ways,” he replies. “Gradually, then suddenly.”

Couldn’t the same be said for how our children grow up — gradually, then suddenly.
Feels a bit odd to be sentimental over a piece of paper, but more that just about any other “school thing” it represents time going by, and by and by and by. 

And then comes a moment, where you stand looking at a near empty bulletin board wondering what happened and how it happened so fast.


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