One of the issues I’ve had this year is that I haven’t really connected to my seniors. In general, I really like them all (well, most of them), but compared to last year’s graduating class that had so many students that I had spent so much time with and watch grow up, this year’s class just doesn’t inspire that “tug” in me. So much so that I have been considering not going to this year’s graduation in May. Graduation ends late in the evening, I live an hour away, and last year was so emotional that sitting it out is very appealing. Maybe a couple of kids will be disappointed. The prospect of not listening to “Pomp and Circumstance” again sat well with me.
But as always, there’s the “one”.
I met Xi by chance last year during sophomore state testing when students who were not being tested were sent to my room for study hall. I did not know most of the students, but they made themselves at home and quietly studied. Not Xi. She came up to my cupboard and my desk to look at all of my pictures and ask me about all of them: Who was this girl in the prom dress? Was she a good student? How about that boy? Is that a picture of you? Is that your husband? And on and on. For two days we chatted, and afterwards I would say “hi” to her when I saw her on campus.
This year she’s my student in my English 12 class. “I asked for you,” she informed me during the first week of school. She has been a diligent student and continues to ask me all kinds of questions. More than any other student, she has been in my class after school asking for help and feedback. She read ahead during Pride and Prejudice and borrowed my new graphic novel version. It is now well-worn. Through the term she has shared her life with me– growing up as an immigrant, teaching herself at school since her parents don’t know English, and facts about her ever-shifting home life. She stared at me horrified when I suggested that we beat the snot out of the printer when it wasn’t working, “Oh no, Ms. L, we can’t do that!”, and was visibly relieved when it finally produced her essay. The printer would live to see another toner cartridge. She has signed up to be my TA next term, and she has joined my book club and cried over the atrocities in Night.
She has personal tears to shed as her mother is currently in the last stages of cancer, and I’m not sure how much longer she will be around. Xi has been very courageous and determined during this time by maintaining her school work and completing a demanding research project. Her goal has been to make her family and her mother proud.
Today she let me know that she would be missing the rest of the week so she can spend time with her mom. Redness tinged her eyes as she said, “My mom doesn’t look like my mother anymore.” She got out her phone and showed me pictures of her and her mother in the hospital. She held herself together until she had a realization.
Tears streaming down her cheeks, she whispered, “My mom won’t see me graduate.”
If ever I needed a reason to hear “Pomp and Circumstance” again, it is for Xi.