Last week many, many parents and grandparents attended a variety of end-of-year events, and we in the Britt household were no exception.

In addition to the traditional field days, picnics, etc., three of our grandchildren were recognized in their respective schools’ awards day programs.

Third grader Payton received awards for making the all-A honor roll for the quarter and for the year. Her teacher decided to use awards as a final learning experience. She asked students to write a paragraph explaining what award they thought they deserved and justifying their choice. Payton, my particularly creative grandchild – an artist and an accomplished reader – chose math – math, of all things. Now, don’t get me wrong. She’s really good at math. And maybe she comes by it honestly. Her mother received the highest score ever on the math qualifying exam at USCA. Also, I was originally planning on being a math major and spent several years teaching everything from general math to algebra and geometry. And Payton explained she knows all her multiplication tables.

Then we attended Ariah’s graduation from eighth grade at Paul Knox. She was recognized for A-B honor roll for the year and received superlative awards in social studies and Spanish, as well as the S.C. Junior Scholar award of merit. In band she received a superlative for solo and ensemble festival, 2019 Aiken All-County symphonic band and 2019 Region 2 junior honor band recognition. Now she’s on to North Augusta High School.

Cade, who was finishing elementary, also received A-B honor roll for the year. He was cited for his participation in the school chorus and Battle of the Books.

But the real surprise was the final award of the day. Cade was recognized with the American Legion School Award. Let me say we were surprised, not because we didn’t think he deserved the recognition he received, but because we were pleasantly surprised that others saw what we see every day. This award is given to one boy and one girl finishing elementary school, a boy and girl finishing middle school and a male and female high school graduate. It is presented by a representative of a local American Legion Post to a student who exemplifies six qualities that define character: courage, honor, leadership, patriotism, scholarship and service.

The American Legion website explains that the Legion acknowledges that scholarship is important, but also believes that students should receive praise when they demonstrate “strong qualities of character and good citizenship.”

The honor was first created by the American Legion Department in Pennsylvania in 1921 “for the purpose of instilling character and helping perpetuate the ideals of Americanism among youth,” details the website. The faculty of a school gets together and agrees on the one boy and girl they feel best exemplifies the six characteristics I mentioned.

The funny part for me was Cat’s reaction to Cade’s being chosen. When we walked into the fifth grade awards program, I asked her if she needed a tissue for the program. I had observed several parents pulling out tissues to share, because they knew they were going to be teary-eyed as they watched their fifth graders graduate from elementary school and head off to middle school. (I’ll admit the prospect of having a middle-schooler can be cause for tears.) Cat scoffed at my offer. “He’s finishing elementary school; he’s not graduating from high school!” she declared, with a bit of scorn in her voice.

I’ll also admit that when I walked in and saw the American Legion representative, I recalled watching numerous kids receive this award over the years when I was covering events for The Star. And I thought, “This is the kind of award Cade would deserve.” But often such kids are overlooked because they are always kind, cooperative and just good people – traits easily taken for granted, I’ve found. More than one of his teachers has assured Cade’s parents that the academics will come. “Right now be happy that you’re raising the kind of kid people will want to be friends with in the future,” one of his teachers had told us.

So when the announcement was made, it took Cat and me a second to register what was said. For one thing, they called him up as “Caden Brown,” his actual name, but one we don’t use often. So when it finally dawned on Cat that Cade’s name was called, she gasped – audibly. And Cade likewise was stunned. I wasn’t sure his feet were going to move. I did have the presence of mind to move up to try to get a good picture of the presentation.

At the same time, the girl who received the American Legion award was Annabel Coulter, the daughter of our minister and someone Cade has grown up with since being in kindergarten together. Annabel’s mother told me later that she was so excited for Cade that it took her a second to realize Annabel’s name had been called. It was extra special for both these kids to receive such an honor – and a delightful end to their elementary years for their parents (and grandparents, of course), as well.

Meanwhile, Cat and I agreed – maybe next time we should have some tissues on hand after all.

We ended the week in Greenville for granddaughter Clarke’s fourth birthday celebration. She’s definitely not a baby anymore. She enjoyed her party at Pump It Up, as well as having two of her cousins, Daniel and Emma, joining in, plus her Opa and YaYa, of course. And the cakes – from Whole Foods, of all places – were marvelous.