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Thankful for a more normal senior year

It’s that time of spring when the school year is winding down, and children are growing increasingly impatient for lazy summer days that can’t get here fast enough.

And, for many students like a special one in my house, the end to their high school career is upon them.

As my youngest son prepares to graduate from high school, my family’s calendar has been consumed lately with all those senior traditions — awards events, honors celebrations, sports banquets, senior athlete nights and, of course, prom. Many evenings and weekends in the early part of our approaching summer will be filled with the expected lineup of graduation parties, and then there will be college orientation, as these young adults move to the next stages in their lives.

My husband and I know that God has blessed us immensely with loving, healthy children of whom we are very proud. We also realize that we were blessed this year because all these important traditions have gone on pretty much as normal.

Before 2020, parents and graduating seniors had come to take for granted the occurrence of all these traditional events. Sure, we all appreciated and savored the moments, capturing them in photos and good memories, but few of us ever truly considered that some horrible tragedy, disaster of a grand scale or, God help us, a global pandemic might strike that would cripple our traditions and bring our entire world to a standstill.

As the spring sports season played out this year, I couldn’t help but notice a handful of 2020 graduates returning to the dugout frequently to visit with this year’s baseball team and coaches, or just to sit in the stands and take in the game. It appeared to me that they bore a sense of wistfulness or even a hint of sadness. These are the young men with whom my son would have played on last year’s varsity baseball team — if they had a season, that is.

Last year’s seniors, of course, missed out on making memories with the team or at special events like those banquets, prom and, sadly, even a normal high school graduation. Heck, these kids didn’t even get to enjoy being in school with their friends during those final weeks and months of their senior year.

I realize parents, teachers and administrators worked hard to give them the recognition and honors they deserved, attempting to make it as normal as possible for them. I’m sure the graduates appreciated those efforts.

Still, I was sad for them back then. But the sting of what they missed is even more poignant now, as I experience these events with my son.

This year, we are thankful that students at his high school had the choice of in-person or online classes. He chose to go to school in person all year, and thankfully, he and all his friends remained healthy.

Last week, he attended his senior prom. It was held in a scaled-back fashion, with limited underclassmen and no guests allowed from outside the school district. But those restrictions were OK because he had a prom night that he spent probably acting goofy and celebrating with his friends. Years from now, I hope he’ll recall it as fondly as I do when I look back on mine.

Now, many local high school graduations, like ours, will be held outdoors, spread out on football fields around the Mahoning Valley, rather than inside, as usual, in gymnasiums and auditoriums.

Again, that’s OK, because after all those years of school, my family will be on hand to watch him walk across the stage in his cap and gown, all in person.

For that, we are thankful.

We also are hopeful that downward trends of COVID-19 continue in Ohio and across our great nation, so that no future graduating class ever again experiences this.

Linert is editor of the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator.

blinert@tribtoday.com

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