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Ice cream, bonfires and other ways LI families mark the end of the school year

Taylor White, left, and her mom Xiomara White,

Taylor White, left, and her mom Xiomara White, both from Bellmore, keep a family tradition going by having a lunch out together at Oichii in Rocky Point. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

To mark the end of the school year, Wantagh's Katherine Schilling gathers her husband, John, 51, a road construction laborer, and their kids, John, 15, and Sarah, 13, and lights up the chiminea in their backyard. The fire does double duty. The family makes s'mores — then burns flyers and notices that have come home from school.

After a year filled with lots of hard work, the ritual feels like a relief, says Schilling, 52, a phone company technician.

Noting that she works from the 4-to-midnight shift, Schilling adds, "It's also two months that I get to see my children more." 

June 26 is fast approaching — the final day of classes for most schools on Long Island. That means parents are planning, and looking forward to, treasured end-of-the-school-year traditions. Some they created and continue even after their children are grown and out of school. Others have been passed down from their parents when they were children.

Growing up in Virginia, Mariana Turturro and her brother were treated to ice cream at Friendly’s on both the first and last days of school. Their mother would take them. “It was always such a special day because we would tell her about our teacher, just who was in our class, what to look forward to for the school year,” says Turturro, 41, a legal secretary from Hicksville.

Turturro's mother died five years ago. In her honor, Turturro started the tradition a few months later with husband, James, 39, a fitness professional, and sons, Thomas, 7, and Nicolas, 3, as soon as they started nursery school.

“It’s something to look forward to," she says. "It’s nice because my husband picks the kids up at school and I take a late lunch at work and I’ll meet them over at Friendly’s and we’ll have our ice cream together. And I feel like she’s there with us.”

Over the years, Theresa Beck’s equally sweet finish to the school year started when daughter Ashley was 4 and in preschool. Beck, of Nesconset, baked a cake. “The following year, when my daughter went to school, she asked if I was going to bake her a cake for her after-school snack and I did," says Beck, 51, a stay-at-home mother. 

This time of year, she still bakes everyone their favorite treats, from daughter Alexandra, still in high school at 14, to sons Travis, 24, and Christopher, 26, even Ashley, now 28.

Since Taylor White was in elementary school, her mother, Xiomara White, would take her to lunch at her favorite Asian fusion restaurant in Rocky Point, where they would sit and plan her summer. “I would pick her up from aftercare and then we would go out to eat, just to make it something a little more special,” says White, 47, an elementary school teacher who lives in North Bellmore.

White still celebrates with Taylor, now 25 and a teacher assistant, at her daughter's favorite restaurant, and says she plans to follow the same end-of-school-year routine with her younger children, Harley, 2, and Alexander, 1, when they reach school age.

"I feel like they work so hard all year — homework, tests, sports, getting up early — it's a reward for a job well done and celebrating an accomplishment," White says.

Three years ago, Levittown's Christina FitzGerald, 32, bought her kids adult-sized T-shirts marking the year each of them will graduate high school. She then started taking pictures of Isabella, 8 (Class of 2029), and David, 5 (Class of 2031), at the beginning of each year. 

When each of her children graduates, FitzGerald says, she plans to create a collage of the photos “so they see how they grew with the shirts throughout the years.”

While her son, David, is out of high school and already working, Jeanne Stander, 60, a retired dental hygienist from Fort Salonga, continues the tradition they've had since he was in ninth grade — lunch at Besito in Huntington. “They grow up so quickly and it’s hard to grab that time with them, away from their friends," Stander says of their annual meal. "I just felt like it was a great way to look back over what he accomplished over the year and looking at that whole nice summer that lay ahead of us, and just to have that one-on-one time, it was so nice and special."

David, 20, who is working in commercial real estate investing, says he still looks forward each year to their special day.

“I feel like most of my year is just rushing, rushing, rushing, with work and everything," he says. "I don’t really get to sit down and actually talk to my mom as much as I really want to or should."

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