I stirred in the pew each time they called a child's name, happy for those who received an Oscar, an end-of-the-year trophy, awarded to the school's top performers. I listened for my son's name.
"Will I get an Oscar?" my son had asked earlier that morning, on the way to school.
"I don't know, man." I said. "Regardless, you've done your best this year. I'm proud of you." My son didn't respond to my Father Knows Best moment. He wanted a trophy.
One by one, a child would step forward to accept his or her Oscar for the A,B Honor Roll. I grew antsy as the number of trophies thinned. I couldn't recall my son bringing home a C all year long. Heck, he hadn't received a B or a C since entering the school two years ago. He's an A student.
As the last few names were called off, my son's eyes grew as big as quarters. He fidgeted with his shirt and swayed from side to side. He bit the inside of his lip, a nervous habit he must have inherited from me. To reassure him of the pride I felt regardless, I stood up, lifted my camera and took a few pictures. He forced a grin through cheeks stiff as cardboard.
I couldn't see my wife from where I stood, but I knew she was thinking about our nightly rituals, supervising my son's homework — 100 math problems, 15 minutes of reading, Bible verse memorization (King James), worksheets and more worksheets and more worksheets. If he wouldn't receive an Oscar, surely my wife and I would.
The last name was called, and my son wasn't included. I felt sick. I knew how hard he worked. I knew he deserved an Oscar. Maybe my wife or I had forgotten to sign and return one of a thousand notes his teacher had sent home. Maybe I didn't get in my required parent training hours (I didn't). Maybe this was my fault, I thought. I'm so busy.
I scanned the pews for other proud parents. And I made unjustified excuses. Many of these people are stay-at-home mommies and daddies, I rationalized. I work, and so does my wife. We can't stay at home and scrapbook and pay this tuition.
And then I got angry. I removed the camera from around my neck, the strap was beginning to strangle me. No one – other than my wife and I — probably even noticed that my son didn't receive an Oscar. In their minds, I assumed, he's an African American male. He's not supposed to receive an Oscar. After all, the ceremony was about academics, not basketball or break-dancing. Stupid . . . stupid, I know. I scolded myself for my vicious thoughts and for playing the race card.
The ceremony continued on, and my son's teacher, who was presenting the Oscars, sat down. Then another teacher took the stage. "And now we present our A students," she announced. "We present this award to the following children, who have maintained an A or an A+ average throughout the entire year."
My son's eyes lit up again. So did mine.
When they called his name, he floated through the air, as though on a magic carpet, and accepted his Oscar with such enthusiam, the performance deserved an aplause in and of itself.
Pictured above is his Oscar, but he received two trophies that day. One for his grades, the other for his memorization work. He gave one trophy to me, the other to my wife . . . and gave her a dollar to boot for "being such a good mom."
For those of you who followed my Super Secret personal, semi anonymous blog, I'm considering ginning it up again. My blog here has been getting off topic — with posts like this — since I let the other go dark.