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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Leon

The End of an Era

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

"Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love."

- St. Therese of Lisieux

On Tuesday I hopped in the car with Clare and pulled out of the driveway at 7:40 a.m. for the last time. We drove to St. Theresa Catholic School in the glow of an already warm June day. As we were heading out of the house, I had a quick thought. “We should probably take a picture,” I said to Clare. “I was wondering when you would ask!” she tossed back with a smile and we took a selfie and the obligatory last-day-of- school picture on the front stoop.

Her last day of school.

Her last day of 8th grade.

My youngest living child’s last day of middle school.

My whole family’s very last day at St. Theresa school after 18 years.

Mommy and Maggie (2003)

My oldest daughter Maggie began kindergarten in 2003. I can barely remember that stage of life with a different husband in a different house with only 3 children. On that first monumental day of school, I buckled a baby and a toddler into car seats along with Maggie in her booster and made the first of over 6,500 pick-up and drop-offs to St. Theresa Catholic school. Last week I did the last.

On a good day, I can drive to school in 4 minutes. Clare and I got all the green lights and barely had time to say our morning prayer and pop on one of her favorite Beatle's tunes before she was out the door in the carline. One last kiss. One last drive away.

The school planned a festive car-parade that day for the 8th graders as their final send off. I thought it fitting that after so much time driving back and forth to school our last hurrah was in our cars. While Clare finished her last day, I made colorful signs for the car and taped them to the sides. That afternoon, the 8th graders had a final celebratory walk around the track, lined with all the other students, staff, and parents. After everyone was loaded into cars, the 8th graders climbed through sunroofs and hung out windows and perched on the edge of convertibles and we made one last drive through each of the parking lots. Children and parents honked and held signs and waved from their parking spots.

Clare and I cranked the Beatles and, fittingly, “Let It Be” filled the car as we slowly drove through the ranks, smiling and waving and (at least for me) wiping a few tears from my eyes.

These moments mark our lives, moments that are so full our hearts spill over. Births, marriages, graduations, firsts, lasts. I am a woman who has had a lot of change in my life and I am so grateful for those few pillars of stability that held fast while the tides of my life ebbed and flowed, and often crashed, around them.

This school lasted longer than my first marriage. It welcomed and loved my first 5 children and prayed with us as we mourned the death of my 6th. It supported my children and me through my messy divorce, and I reconnected with my new husband within her walls when my oldest and his youngest were in a musical together in 7th grade. This school watched us all grow and learn and change and heal and, one-by-one, make our way out of the security of its small, parochial embrace.

St. Theresa Catholic School, Ashburn, Virginia

Life has shifted significantly this year with James off to college, Nathan mostly at his dad’s and Clare moving on to high school. The 6 olders are all independent adults. My own vocation as primarily a stay-at-home mom has expanded to include being an author and graduate student. All this stretching and shifting and growing is good and right and true, but still leaves me breathless some days. I am old enough now to ask, Where did all the time go?

Do you have this ache too at your own pivotal moments? Do you have a slideshow playing in your head of the millions of moments that came before today? Do you mourn your own 6,000 car rides when you too forgot to notice the radiant beauty of ordinary miracles as you raced out the door and forgot lunches or PE uniforms or permission slips? Oh, the profound privilege of loving and caring for and chauffeuring these glorious souls. Oh, how desperately I love being their mother.

Thank you, Jesus, for making me their mother and for giving us this beautiful school to be our home and security for so many years. I pray again one of my favorite scriptures from Psalm 116: "How can I make a return to God for goodness unsurpassing?"

My heart is full of all the feels. With great love and the smell of roses in the air, we say our deepest thank you to our beautiful school community who kept us rooted and grounded in the love of Christ for the last 18 years. St. Theresa, pray for us.

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