It has been eight years since our John Hancock Child Care Center in Boston closed.
As we were all saddened by the corporate decision, we were determined to make our last months memorable. The following is from my journal entry of June, 2010.
“On a recent summer afternoon—a Saturday—when so many other events are planned, they came to ours! Hundreds of people attended. Unbelievable! The line to the front door stretched down the block! The perfect celebration for our 20 years as the John Hancock Child Care Center. And, it was quite the party!
I’ve started many such programs during my career—for businesses, hospitals, communities. I’ve opened these programs, stayed on as the Director, grown them, managed them for a time, and then moved on to the next adventure. You could say that I was the “founding mother” of this Boston-based, corporate-sponsored, child care center. For I opened its doors as the Director in 1990, grew it to its 200-child capacity (with the assistance of some of the finest early childhood teachers in the area), created a leading edge early childhood program for the infants through kindergartners, managed and maintained its high standard of early education and care and, now, 20 years later, held a reunion for all who have been a part of this experience. The response was overwhelming!
What a rare privilege to create a community for thousands of young children, new parents, and young educators. And, what an honor to teach, mentor, manage, and lead!
That Saturday was a testament to a partnership, a team, a program—one that evolved from an idea whose time had come. We created a place where children thrived and where parents had complete trust. We worked together and made magic! And, on that Saturday, I heard this over and over again as I greeted our families of the last 20 years! The children are now six to twenty-five years old—no longer the infants, toddlers, and preschoolers that we cared for. They are poised and kind and funny and grown up—and not unlike the young children they were—just much, much taller. And, we spent hours talking about their lives, what they were now doing, what they enjoyed, their hopes and their dreams.
And, it was one of the best days of my life.
To re-connect with all of these children (now young men and women) and their parents after all of these years—I hadn’t seen most of them for ten+ years—was amazing! So, you can imagine how overwhelming our party was! They came back to the Child Care Center. They came to play—in their old classrooms, on the playgrounds—and they came to see their teachers and old friends and to re-connect! And, it was extraordinary!
There were pockets of people in all of the sandboxes—short and tall people sliding down the “roll-y” slide on the playground—others just hanging out. Little kids ran in and out of the crowds with their “big chocolate chip cookies” (a special treat at our Center). People sat on the stairs leading to the second floor, hung out at the Garden, in Infant and Toddler Squares, and in the Common where the Art Show was taking place. And, there were people visiting with one another in each of our eighteen classrooms. They found places to sit, to be—anywhere, everywhere! And, it was like old times. A homecoming, of sorts. Just as they did when they were little, kids ran to one another when they recognized a familiar face. There was lots of hugging, and laughter, and, yes, tears. It was an emotional day for most of us.
And on Saturday, the stories were told—the old familiar stories, the moments parents and children remember, the stories that make up the unique fabric of this place. These are the never-to-be-forgotten memories that we will cherish. For each family, there is a story. And, once again, I listened and took it all in. Every guest on Saturday wanted to share—and I loved hearing about their kids! The kids had their memories, too—which were often poignant, and amazingly detailed (given that they were so young when they were with us). And, the parents remembered the best parts of our time together. Things that I had long since forgotten were what parents remembered and took from this experience. They were shared from deep within.
What really hit me was the fact that we had made such a difference—a positive impact—in the lives of so many. I was truly unprepared for story after story. That our program had been a godsend for so many parents, that they had learned so much from us—that, while we were doing our jobs, they had been watching, listening, and learning how to parent. That our homelike environment had become an extension of their homes, and that we had become the extended family for so many. That there was a palpable feeling, a strong sense of being connected, one to another—as you entered the front door. That our early childhood program had made a difference in the lives of their children. That they had been well prepared for school and for life when they left us! That the children had done so well—and that a lot of the credit belonged to those who had worked with their kids while they were with us.
We heard this again and again and again on Saturday. And, it was so good for all of us to hear and to take in. The validation was real, honest, and freely given. Wow, all of our time, effort, and love given had been worth it!
We leave a legacy at John Hancock. And its memories are forever a part of our being. What an extraordinary adventure it has been! Teaching young children is an honorable profession, and often, in the day to day, we tend to forget that what we do and how we do it will long be remembered by our children and their parents. As we learned on that Saturday, we may forget, but they will not. It is an awesome responsibility, a humbling experience, and life-changing work. And, it demands the very best we have to give.”