In the early part of April, I received the following gentle correction from an MICDS senior: “The AP Latin class just had a brief discussion, and we believe it’s ‘classi de MMXX,’ not ‘classis a MMXX.’” He was referring to my (apparently failed) attempt to say “Class of 2020” in Latin in one of the emails I have been writing every evening this spring to our seniors, who yesterday afternoon drove through our beautiful campus in style, most of them with parents, siblings and pets in tow, as they celebrated their final day of school at MICDS.
Latin is not the only world language that our correspondence has indulged as I have sought variety in my senior salutations. “Выпускники года две тысячи двадцать!” began one email. (This is supposed to say “Graduates of the year two thousand twenty” in Russian, but I am absolutely not the best-qualified person to confirm whether it actually does.) “If you’re interested,” one senior suggested, “in Norwegian, ‘The graduating class of 2020’ is ‘Avgangsklassen av to tusen tjue.’” How helpful! And so began that evening’s email.
Each missive includes a survey and a song. The results of the former have been extensively enlightening. I have learned who has the best fries (McDonald’s), who makes the best sneakers (Nike by a nose), how one should draw an “X” (first stroke northwest to southeast, second stroke northeast to southwest), where is the best brownie in the pan (the middle!), and what are the most fun three-syllable “B” words to say (“bamboozle” and “babushka,” apparently).
I have also learned a great deal about this senior class: their favorite Avenger (Iron Man), their favorite emoji faces (“star-struck” 🤩 and “pleading face” 🥺), their favorite pets (dogs by a landslide), their favorite candy (Kit Kat), and their favorite St. Louis pizza place (Dewey’s, after several rounds of competition). I have learned that they want to visit Alaska and Hawaii more than any other states and Australia and Greece more than any other countries, though their dreams span the globe. Why my eyes well up when I write these words I cannot say.
For their part, they have learned that human fears and fruit preferences vary widely, that people who eat the cupcake frosting before the cake may be less generous to a stranger (not the conclusion of a scientific study!), and that more members of their class were born in December than in any other month (although they already knew that “Elizabeth” is the most common middle name among them).
As to the music we have enjoyed together, when I commenced writing these emails to the Class of 2020 the day after the Stay at Home Order was authorized, I told them, “I thought it would be fun, as you finish your senior year of high school, to create a throwback playlist of music that was popular when I was a senior in high school. Just as each daily poll will be new, I will add a new song to our playlist each day. The songs will be ordered chronologically by their release between July of 1987 and June of 1988—my own senior year. We called playlists ‘mixtapes’ when I was in high school, so that’s what I’m calling this one: Mr Rainey’s 1987-88 Senior Mixtape.”
Each week, the seniors have selected their favorite mixtape songs, which so far have been (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson, Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before by The Smiths, One Step Up by Bruce Springsteen, Wild Wild West by Kool Moe Dee, and (horrors! 😱) Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley. If you would like to listen to the mixtape yourself, you are welcome to do so on Apple Music or Spotify. Like its audience, it is a happy work in progress.
Implicit in the word “diary,” which derives from the word “dies,” meaning “day” (this much Latin I do know), is the expectation of daily manuscription. I like to think of the emails that I have written this spring to our seniors—which will continue into May—as a kind of diary, a discipline of communication and reflection.
On May 24, 1837, the young woman who would become Queen Victoria only 27 days later wrote in her own diary the following words: “Today is my eighteenth birthday! How old! And yet how far am I from being what I should be. I shall from this day take the firm resolution to study with renewed assiduity, to keep my attention always well fixed on whatever I am about, and to strive to become every day less trifling and more fit for what, if heaven wills it, I’m some day to be!”
Her aspirations are as fitting today as they were then, and as befitting an 18-year-old as a person of any age. Every day is, in a sense, the last day of school for all of us, and the first day of the rest of our lives. In this respect, as in so many others, we can look to the MICDS Class of 2020 for hope and inspiration.
Congratulations, seniors! Always reason, always compassion, always courage. Best wishes to all MICDS families for a joyful weekend.
Head of School