Tony Vagneur: Miss Mare’s big graduation ceremony, through a grandfather’s eye |

Tony Vagneur: Miss Mare’s big graduation ceremony, through a grandfather’s eye

We think of transitions as those changes in our lives — our first house, our wedding, our death, those sorts of things. Those are big events, especially the last one, but travel with me for a minute to Miss Mare’s NJS Hobby Farm, a wildly popular preschool in Basalt, where a week ago she celebrated the graduation of her 5-year-olds from preschool into kindergarten. Remarkably, Miss Mare (Mare Wolfer) has been doing preschools and child care for 41 years. Remarkably.

Such things didn’t exist in my young world, so I looked at it with a bit of wonder and curiosity. My grandson, Cash, graduated from there three years ago, so I wasn’t a neophyte, but still, it’s all new every time because you don’t know what the kids might throw at you.

Cash and I walked around the grounds and you could see him reliving parts of the past in his mind. He wasn’t afraid to get in the huge sandbox for a bit, just to see if some of those toys still worked the same, or if the new ones were better. Most impressive to me, as we walked by the “animal kingdom,” he rattled off the names of the goats like he’d just been there the day before.

My granddaughter Charli, dressed in an ankle-length sun dress, sporting a fresh manicure and wearing light lipstick (her mother helped reorganize that), quietly welcomed me to the affair, maintaining an air of sophistication that surprised. She knew it was a big deal. Unlike Cash, she didn’t have time to stroll with me; she was busy rounding up her friends in anticipation of the coming event. Her mother filled me in on Charli’s friends as they ran around the huge yard, and I was getting a little dizzy, trying to keep up.

Then, suddenly Charli and her classmates disappeared, “to get dressed,” as some of the parents whispered and we all waited with anticipation. And then, just like it is with high school or college graduation, they came outside in a line, each wearing a dark red mortar board cap and gown, complete with tassel. They marched to a prearranged spot along the small stream running through the yard and stopped under the huge shade trees and looked right back at us. They knew who was in charge at that point. Miss Hilary, Miss Mare’s daughter, the one who worked with the kids all through the year, called their names, one by one, and they each walked to Miss Hilary and received their diplomas. Was that the highlight? Who can say, but it was performed without a hitch.

Kids that young don’t say, “Wow, that was a big deal,” ‘cause that’s not how they operate, but when Charli came to my side and showed the box of assorted small graduation gifts she had received from the school, one item at a time, it was clearly a big deal to her.

There was a great lunch afterward, both prepared by the school and potluck from parents. Some of my favorite things could be found positioned on the very long, loaded table containing it all. Outside in perfect weather, it was a picnic for the adults as well as the children.

So, we’re sitting there after lunch, just relaxing and watching the festivities when a kid takes a position across from me in one of several sandboxes. The kid was so curious, so outgoing, it was hard not to tease him a bit. “What’s your name, Bode?” He replied right away, “You know me from the lacrosse tournament last weekend. You know I’m Bode. I have a twin brother, Nash, you know that, too.” The other grampa next to me asks, “Who is older?” Bode’s heard all this nonsense before — at 5 years old, he’s ahead of us and without hesitation tells who’s older and by how much. OK, Bode, you’re a cool kid with a lot of personality. We think you have a bright future.

Charli has had a big day, and when it’s time to leave, there is no argument. She and her parents are off saying their goodbyes and I sneak out the front gate, hoping to get away without explanation. And there is Miss Mare, thanking me in the kindest way for showing up. And in my inept way of social discourse, I say, “I have bad news for you — I’m out of grandchildren.” Miss Mare, who came from a family of 16 children, just shook her head and smiled. “Goodbye, Tony.”

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at