It’s that time of the year again. Against impossible odds, the high school student has survived. He has braved the perilous semester and lived to tell the tale. Marks, schmarks! Crushed, no doubt, by exams and summatives and Santolin—who cares! Summer cometh, and not a moment too soon: the student embraces a life of hedonistic abandon (YOLO), be it getting smashed at parties or biking to the Niagara.

And how he wishes it could last forever! Yet September arrives, more absolute than death or taxes. He is thrust back into school, saddled by higher expectations reserved for “maturity”. On what grounds? Is it not, to use the famous expression, no-thing? Surely if the teachers knew what he was up to, they’d sooner knock him down two grades than raise him one.

But for some, the adventure is over—thrust out to the real world of universities and jobs and adulthood in funny hats and floppy gowns. As they go their sordid, separate ways, the high school student knows that his time is coming. He, too, will soon be all full of tears and flapdoodle, sobbing and drinking with friends he’ll promise to keep in touch.

Here at TOPS, we have something a little healthier. It’s called—surprise!—TOPS Night.

It is during TOPS Night we practice and celebrate the chief virtues of TOPS life: entropy and procrastination. All chaos and desperation up till the house lights come back on. Want to have fun before the show? Forget dinner and a movie—plan to arrive three to four hours early to watch the setup. Bring popcorn.

And perhaps this is why TOPS Night is so humble. Though it may be smug, it does not pretend to be perfect. We are encouraged from the beginning to laugh at mistakes in the spirit of good fun and camaraderie. Exams may nitpick, but TOPS Night is a gesture of gratitude: to our friends, our teachers, our parents, and our school—those who have helped us succeed in the face of overwhelming “virtue”. And so we get on stage and sing and dance and play funny piano arrangements for their amusement. It’s the least we can do, considering how much we owe our grad trip to them (wink wink nudge nudge).

And for the twelves, it’s a chance to say goodbye. Fond memories, inside jokes, snarky teachers live again through acts, videos, and speeches. Nostalgia so thick that a single breath puts a lump in the throat. A proud teardrop or two … hundred. I really don’t know how it feels. Give me a year; I’ll find out for you. (Ever the star reporter.)

For the elevens and tens, it’s a reality check. You’re growing up, it seems to say. Come September, I’ll destroy everything you’ve held sacred these past few years. For us, we’ve come a long way: no longer thumb-sucking niners, nervous and unsure around the roaring Pinecrest fire. And as for you, tens, you’re next. It’s up to you with TOPS Night 2013.

Make it wonderful.

[st showalt=on rotationtime=4 reverse=off]


Many thanks to Robert Lowrey’s Piano Experts, our neighbours just around the corner, for providing the night’s beautiful Schimmel grand. Please support them by liking their page on Facebook.