Exact change.

I've homeschooled my kids for years now. Ever since Lucy and Jonathan were both in elementary school.

Last semester they both went to the Cooler-Than-Thou Local Art School. But the days there were way too long for people who were used to having lots of time to do their own creative stuff and they both independently decided they wanted to come home again. (This, of course, made me deliriously happy, but that's not important right now.)

And so they did. Lucy came back to finish her senior year and Jonathan his freshman year. They came back so much more appreciative of what an alternative home education has provided them. Both of them plunged back in to their new (old) environment with lots of energy. Lucy especially.

Yesterday was graduation.

Lucy's graduation

Commencement is already such an emotionally charged event. The graduates are excited. The parents are nostalgic. And for one brief and shining moment, your teenager can do no wrong. ;-)

Lucy was chosen to give one of the two speeches at graduation. She chose to do it in a "spoken word poetry" style (of course, she did). She didn't leave a dry eye in the house.

Please enjoy, "Exact change."

As she spoke I quietly wept in the dark auditorium. I had done my job well and this moment was my reward.

In this moment, Eric and I knew that our homeschooling "experiment" was a resounding success.


God speed, my girl.

Congratulations to all of the members of the Pacific Coast High School Class of 2011. You did it!

Here's the full transcript of Lucy's speech:

    Change. Exact change.

    Stepped onto the bus for the first time, handling the weighty stack of quarters my mother had given me the day before. The bus driver smiled not because I was new but because I was welcome. Light blue carpeted floor and walls that slid back and forth to create new rooms. It was smaller than I had expected but more spacious than any bus I had entered before. A subterranean hum of conversation played tag with the necessary silence.    

    Wide-eyed and comfortable as long as my lips remained pressed together, I spotted the older passengers, the ones who had been there for ages already, fidgeting because their stop was fast approaching. Absent-minded and exhausted, they offered me their charmingly sarcastic advice, ready to move on to their next adventure. My small hands were tempted to draw faces in the chill of the windows but I restrained myself because I felt too new.    

    I sat myself next to the girl who wrote poetry on her hands and drew pictures of dinosaurs on her guitar like the dozens who found their freedom and their passion as soon as they took their seats. She pulled me aside by the arm introduced me to Santa Claus, who wore a blue-buttoned shirt and ironed trousers. The tour guide described the economy of the English language while encouraging respect and responsibility, familiarity and friendship, patience... and enthusiasm. I once sat next to a boy whose hair was far too long and I played games with the actors. To them, everyday was Shakespeare and the evenings were his sonnets; our world was a small stage and all of us were merely players, constantly ad-libbing our lines. I paid appropriate wonder to the ones smarter than myself and nudged the quiet ones out of their corners, asking them who they were and why they chose this curious mode of transportation.   

    Three times on our journey we stopped, each time was as long and memorable as seventeen sand-coated summers. I admit we had our favorites, like the restaurant surrounded by palm trees which served only burgers or the two patriotic cafés. Different drivers took their turns and the familiar faces left the bus, quickly replaced by the wide-eyed expressions I once wore.    

    The hot days leaked through the glass and stained our clothing with the heat, inciting frustration and self-doubt. But even amid the gray sunrises when our breathing was visible and painful, we still took photographs and danced as we changed seats. The drivers who had chosen to take cars instead were struggling with maps, distractions, backseat drivers, and meetings they were always late for. The same destination; just a different way of getting there. Accused of becoming lonely, the term “socialization” was thrown at the windows often.   

    By the time I knew everyone as well as they’d allow me, we were sitting near the front of the bus. We knew where we were headed and which stop was ours. The new visitors shuffled towards the back, warily observing the rest of our eccentric, chatty, absurdly lovable and thoroughly modern family. When our drivers questioned us about the trip, we wrote on colored post-it notes and decorated the windows. We had learned how to be honest with ourselves and we learned how to ask for help with our baggage.    

    As we finally step off the bus, in tasseled caps and ill-fitting robes, we may stumble over to the ones who have been there our entire lives. We are able to raise our heads, look them straight in the eyes and thank them. Even though we’re older and a bit worn, almost too exhausted for expressions, we manage to turn and smile at the bus drivers as they each offer a large wave goodbye. On a Wednesday afternoon, in the year 2011, we’ll remember that these drivers got us where we needed to be when we needed to be there which happened to be every Friday before 3 o’clock. But I implore you to recall that the ones standing outside paid for our fare and were always waiting for us to get home safely at the end of the day. After some tearful goodbyes and hugs that aren’t tight enough, you will board your next bus, heading towards somewhere only God knows. And wherever you may be going, please remember that you got to be where you are today because of change. Exact change.

Thank you.