According to the West Hawaii Today newspaper, high school senior Ciara Cetraro, 17, hasn't missed one day of school since kindergarten. She is three weeks away from graduation. Her brother Nicolas graduated last year, also with perfect attendance. This doesn't just happen in Hawaii. This sort of freakishly responsible behavior is happening all over the country.
Perfect attendance is a good indication that a kid has had a pretty nice life. It means he or she has never been sick. (Or, more likely, it means he or she has attended school and spread his or her disgusting cold and flu germs all over the classrooms.)
It also means the child has never experienced a tragic loss. My children have missed school to attend their father's funeral. They also missed school to attend the funerals of my grandmother, my grandma, and my granddad. They missed school so I could attend the funeral of a dear friend. They have missed classes for dentist and orthodontist appointments.
Perfect attendance also means that a child has never gotten to miss school for fun reasons, either. Kate missed a day once so she could go on a work trip with me when I still worked at a magazine. We drove to a resort in North Carolina and went to a spa where we got massages and pedicures.
And it's highly likely both kids will miss school tomorrow, too. None of us will want to wake up at 6 am tomorrow, because we are going to the midnight premiere of The Avengers tonight.
Does this make me a bad parent? I don't think so.
Years from now, will Kate be affected by whatever fourth-grade lessons she missed the day we drove to North Carolina? Or will she remember the trip she got to take with her mom? How we stopped at Cracker Barrel and I bought her a stuffed duck? How she giggled during the pedicure? How she slurped down cup after cup of the resort's signature strawberry smoothies? How she stopped talking entirely during her hour-long massage and declared it her "favorite thing ever"?
Would I like my son to have some certificate declaring him "really good at showing up to stuff" or would I rather he remember how he begged me to take him to the midnight premiere of summer's first superhero movie and how I said yes and that we wore Avengers T-shirts, snuck in cheap candy in my purse, drank too much soda, and stood in line with other fans, laughing and making jokes and enjoying the anticipation of being part of an event?
Will the three of us likely sing the Iron Man song on the way to and from the movie, like we did when we first saw Iron Man? Will we sing the words, "I am the ice cream man, running over fat kids in my van. When they hear my bell, all the fat kids run like --"? And then will the kids stop singing so the adult (that's me, in case you forgot) can say, in a deep and ridiculous voice, "HELL"?
I've always been a fan of a good hooky day.
Tim wrote a hilarious column for the paper and sat next to me on the Culture & Leisure Team desk. Lane Crockett, who had covered the arts in Shreveport for three decades, sat across from us and, once a week, would crack us up by reading the names of the songs and artists on the Top 40 charts in a serious and derisive tone. "Will Smith featuring Dru Hill and Kool Moe Dee." (When I was in Shreveport the Friday that George Clooney's March of Ides opened in October, I called Lane and he met me at the theater for the midday showing.)
We wouldn't skip the whole day of work. We really just took an extended lunch break so we could see the noon showing of a movie. This must have been before midnight premieres became a big thing.
We saw Blair Witch Project on a Friday at noon. We saw The Sixth Sense. We saw The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. (Go to my friend Teddy Allen's blog to read Tim's column about The Lord of the Rings.)
Those occasional midday breaks are part of my favorite memories of my years at The Times. Many of my favorite memories involve laughing with Tim and Lane. I'm suddenly reminded that Lane had never missed a day of work for decades. I used to give him regular lectures on the importance of mental health days.
In the years since Tim, suddenly and unfairly, passed away, I have thought of him often when I see a movie I know he would have loved, a movie he'd have seen at noon or, once this became a thing, at midnight.
During our extra-long lunches, did we miss important phone calls? Did we miss important staff meetings? Did we miss anything that mattered?
Not that I can remember.
What I do remember is sitting in the dark with my friends and then excitedly discussing the movie afterward.
I remember what matters.
Congratulations to you, Ciara Cetraro, for your perfect attendance record. It really is commendable. But I hope when you go to college that you make some friends who help you see that life isn't always about showing up where you think you're supposed to be.
Sometimes life is about taking a break from all the "supposed-to" and the "have-to" and the "must." It's about saying "Why the hell not?" and making memories with the people you love.
Because, frankly, you never really know how much time you'll have left with them.
So, tonight, I'll sit in the dark with my two favorite people, who will be up way past their bedtime. And tomorrow, they may not make it to where they are supposed to be, but they'll be exactly where they belong.