Last weekend, I was on a boat. Actually, it was a catamaran and I was pottering around Sydney Harbour on a glorious Spring day. Winds South-Easterly. 5-10 knots. 25°. Perfect.
I sail once a year with this bunch of dads. Some of them I know quite well because I travelled with them and their sons to Vietnam six years ago. Now their sons are young men and form part of the cohort of departing Year 12s.
We day-dreamed past harbour-side mansions and guessed the number of state-rooms on Frank Lowy’s boat – or was it James Packer’s? We enjoyed companionable chatter. It was bloke talk. There was also bloke food – think sausage rolls, chips and chocolate crackles. For a few hours, we were the ones that owned the harbour. Life could not get better.
But, it did. I was looking at the Quarantine Station on North Head and thinking, ‘I reckon I could turn that into a school’, when I noticed something. There was a line of people on the jetty looking rather striking in grey coats, blue trousers and red stripes. It was our sons. Lined conspiratorially behind them were the wives. With more than a moist eye, the fathers disembarked and hugged them both.
We were then led to the function room. School banners helped guide us towards laughter and lunch. Vying for our attention was a stunning view across Sydney Harbour (outside) and an audio-visual of our sailing adventures over the last 13 years (inside).
The audio-visual gave a history of changing waistlines. It also captured moments – precious moments – where men came together to chat. The years have brought tragedy to this group. The balm of friendship has done much to help. The years have brought triumph to this group. None more so than to see a son become a man.
I felt privileged to have been invited. My son wasn’t present, but my boys were. This term has had some ordinary moments. What has always kept me going were the boys. They give me purpose. They give me perspective. They give me pleasant voyages on a boat.
It will be difficult to farewell our Year 12s without a sense of loss. However, I am comforted that our Year 12s are ready to leave. We would not have done our job if they were not. When they leave, they will luxuriate in new found freedom. They will signal the end of their school days by re-styling their hair, piercing their body and enjoying ill-defined bed times. After that, they will probably settle down and do the job and family thing.
Forty years later, they may find themselves on a boat pulling into a wharf and being greeted by a son – a splendid looking son – in a school uniform.