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Boyz II Men, we weren't ready

By Dena Walden

Picture it. The year is 1997. You’ve got your New Balance sneakers on with those famous, white tube socks that truth be told were probably taken from your daddy’s sock drawer. You’ve pulled them all the way up to meet your calf muscle but then ever so slightly scrunched them down. Ya know, to keep it casual? By doing so, you felt they had that look of accidentally sliding down but on purpose. I still don’t understand that fad, but as trends come and go I believe it’s making a comeback. The hair was styled just right with the perfect amount of strands pulled up and pinned down with one of those thin, metal clips that resembled an equals sign. Keeping it in place was none other than a good spritz of Rave. That blackest black mascara pulled from the pink and green tube was right on time but horribly applied. And, who could forget the melodious fragrance that finished off the ensemble? That’s right, Bath and Body Works’ magnificent creation known as Cucumber Melon. Can’t you smell it now, girls? Joined by your friend group, you all sauntered off to the girls’ bathroom to touch up your makeup and share the results of the most recent MASH game completed in class. With a swipe and a dab from your Cover Girl compact (which held a chalky powder that was two shades darker than your actual skin tone), you were ready. You made your way back to the dance floor, and that familiar tune and lyrics began. You scanned the room. One of the young guys whose chin was dotted with three scraggly hairs and whose voice sounded like my younger sister’s came up and nervously asked for a dance. As you linked up but leaving room for Jesus, you heard…”How do I say goodbye to what we had? The good times that made us laugh outweigh the bad. I thought we'd get to see forever, but forever's gone away. It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday…”

Now why in the world would I take you back to ‘97 and a 13 year old me? It’s not my intention to drag you aimlessly through my memories. No, my focus is to bring you to the present. My present. That song that we so naively danced to with our ditzy, little selves has taken on a whole new meaning for me. Last year as I wound up my first year at ECI, I created a video for the seniors. They watched this as I chronicled their whole year leading up to their graduation. This is one of the main songs that I used, and I will use it again for this year’s video. It is humorous to think that a song I revel in was at one time the most epic song of all ballads. It has definitely become one that really makes me pause and reflect upon the words.

The kids that graduated last year and those who will graduate Friday are some that I was able to teach in third grade. At the end of every school year I would tell them bittersweet goodbyes, but I knew that in a couple of months I would be able to see them in the halls as they experienced fourth and fifth grade. That thought of knowing I would see them again was still there. It was a slow separation before they made the transition to ECI. I had prepared myself for the time when they would no longer be those young children I once taught. Last year, as that class was adorned with caps and gowns, they prepared and walked the halls of their former elementary school. I remember looking at my coworker and friend and asking, “How do y’all do this every year?” This time it wasn’t the same, not in the slightest way. This time their goodbyes would be very different. For some of them that was the last time I would see them, but for others I knew I would possibly cross paths with them in the future. That was probably the hardest thing that I have had to learn as I changed the course of my career. I found myself crying when I typically wouldn’t cry. Students like to think that teachers make a difference in their lives, and most assuredly they do. However, they didn’t know what an impact they made upon me. Now it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There are some who couldn’t wait to get the heck out of dodge, but for several of them they left an impenetrable memory with me that I will never forget. They left laughter for the best of times, tears for the worst of times, conversations about life, and moments that are made for remembering. This year has been remarkably the same. I am indebted to God for giving me the chance to be a part of so many lives. Each class that departs ECI has their own unique characteristics. This one just so happens to have future members of our nation’s armed forces, state champions in softball, a best actor in the region, and hopefully soon to be state champions for baseball, as well. To the graduating class of 2023, I leave you with this. I pray for your future; your education, your career, your faith, your spouse, and someday your children. I pray that God protects you, guides you, and blesses you beyond measure! I pray that He gives you a world that is better than it is now because of the differences you’ll make. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to dig in my closet, find my old Discman, and search Ebay for a Boyz II Men cd.


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