by Sydney Walsh
It began on a cool day in the late winter of 2005. My son, Harry, and I were much younger when Harry made his first visit to Waverly as an applicant for the preschool. We drove to Pasadena, a drive we ended up making approximately 4,480 times over the next 13 years. As we walked up the steps of the elementary school, Harry pointed his little finger at the big W on the sign outside and said, “It’s the same as me. W like Wilcox,” and then he said, “I wish you could stay.” I hid my tears, and with my heart in my throat, I walked him inside. And before we knew it, we were at All School Meeting, where adorable 4‑year-olds stood to make a fire safety PSA and Harry spoke in public for the first time; a hallmark event for a very quiet little person. As their class announcement began, Harry’s friend Olivia cued him with a question about the danger of fire, and Harry responded briskly, “Don’t ever play with matches. Ever.” And then: thunderous applause from the other students, parents, and teachers in the room. Suddenly, Harry, a child of few words on an average day, looked more like himself. Rapture followed, as it did for most of the days that came after.
This was the lovely beginning of our son’s formal education. And there would be Bob books, the exceptional beauty of numbers, spelling in the car, a duct tape fashion show, journal entries, the first band in 4th grade, the Spring Spotlight performance of Hey Ho at Thorne Hall in hipster beanies, “Kronos was a Titan” (a million verse song in the style of Bob Dylan), a song he wrote and performed for 6th grade celebration, all sorts of sports, but mostly basketball with his besties; there would be middle school heartbreak, high school confidence, dancing (so much dancing), music, lifelong FRIENDS, laughing, more dancing, and love. True love, the love of teachers who make everything light up, and the love of so many community members who help you know your child. And it all goes in an instant, a flash.
The Waverly School was at the center of our world for 14 years. Recently, as we sat on the tables in the back of one of the bungalows packed full for Harry’s senior project, all those discussions and readings made perfect sense. All of that led him to create this one project, that was at first about music, but ended up being about identity, truth, and faith in a community devoted to the individual. On that warm June evening, we once again learned that every child who visits or attends Waverly is held in the highest esteem and embraced, universally, with heart, spirit, and deep respect.
And then it’s August 2019, and we are driving among the blindingly green meadows and fields of Massachusetts: we are taking Harry to college. We are walking up the steps and feeling the same urgency of hoping for the best, hoping for community. Community is Harry’s stated goal for college, which he learned at Waverly is the best part of living, except this time, he is 18. He carries the gift of Waverly in his soul, in his pockets, and in the invisible tattoo on his heart. This new school begins with a W too. And as we hugged tightly and said goodbye for now, we waved and smiled and hid our tears and knew that he would be okay.