It’s funny how I can scroll through my Facebook feed, bounce from one topic to the other and not miss a beat. Recently, there’s been a lot of Naval Academy activity, which I love.
I revel in hearing about the Firstie families as they prepare for Commissioning Week and The Big Day. That was heartwarming.
I was more than a little green with envy seeing the parents from my son’s class flood my feed with photos from the Ring Dance. Our family had spent most of the year eyeing up that event up, so when my son’s summer schedule came out and landed him on a West Coast Zero Block cruise, we were crushed. We’ve been told he can attend next year’s, but even if he does, it won’t quite be the same.
I spent most of the week obsessed with the Herndon Climb. It’s one of my favorite traditions and I loved making the podcast (it’s in the player below in case you missed it!) for this year’s edition as well as engaging with the Plebe parents and feeding off their excitement.
Most of these posts consumed just a few moments of my time. But yesterday a fellow Class of 2020 parent made a post that said, “366 days, but I’m not counting.” 366 days? What about 366 days.
Then it hit me. 366 days until graduation. That means as this piece is being posted a day later, my son and his classmates will graduate in exactly one year. Wait, what did I just type? One year? Is this some sort of Thanos-induced, Endgame time warp hangover?
No. Turns out that something I was taught about USNA time when we first got involved is absolutely true:
Time at the Academy is broken into three parts: Plebe Summer, Plebe Academic Year and the other three years.
Plebe Summer was interminable. Plebe Ac Year crawled on at a snail’s pace. And, SNAP, suddenly we are just one year from Commissioning Week for the Class of 2020.
It seems just like yesterday we were drowning in all the acronyms, wondering if our green cards would get us on The Yard, poring over Facebook posts to see if we could send a certain something to our Plebe and waiting for the first visit home. I feel like I just got some things figured out.
Now, we’re queuing up the lasts – the last Halloween Concert, the last home football game, the last Army-Navy Game (PLEASE let it be a win), the last Christmas Break, the last Spring Break, the last PRTs, the last final exams. The last … everything.
It’s funny the way time changes your perspective. When the kids were little, most of our lives seemed to revolve around the elementary school. We spent countless hours there – plays, concerts, special events, tutoring, whatever. Now, it’s just another building that’s part of the scenery.
I have faint memories of walking The Yard with my son during a Boy Scout trip almost a decade ago. Even though we had a great tour guide, it was really just a blur of similar looking buildings and nondescript monuments. Now each item means something different. I know the story behind Tecumseh. That’s Dahlgren over there, it’s been used for just about everything over the years. Don’t step on that crest, it’s bad luck. No, that’s not a miniature Washington Monument, that’s Herndon. Let me tell you about how the Plebes have to climb it. That gate? Oh, no one wants to exit the Academy through that gate. Yes, that entire building is Bancroft … 8th wing? Go around by those dumpsters.
In one year, after (God willing) my son crosses that threshold, I wonder if I’ll ever return to the Academy. Oh, I know everyone says they’ll return, but in reality, I wonder if I ever will. Will I ever walk down Stribling and stop at that spot where we met our son after that horrible, horrible Induction Day? Will I ever walk by that bandstand where he played with Trident Brass before his Herndon Climb? Will I sit in an idling car in that same parking spot near Bancroft where I waited to escort him to freedom?
I don’t know. I really don’t know.
I’ve given up trying to predict the future when it comes to the Academy, for good or ill. There were times I expected something great and something awful happened. And, conversely, sometimes I expected the worst and it turned out amazing. But all in all, it’s been a blur. From the moment that cover went on top of Herndon, it’s all been a blur. Now that there’s only a year left, what to do?
All I can do know is keep my eyes open – mostly open for opportunities to make the most of it. I’d say I don’t want to miss anything, but I certainly will miss something. But I don’t want to miss it, however it is defined.