Monday, May 5, 2008

Graduation Looms

A few years ago I wrote this about my daughter's graduation from high school. This month my son Richard will graduate from the University of Maryland. And while the names and places of the original piece have changed the sentiment does not. I have missed my kids when they were gone and I miss my little kids all the time. This is not to say that I do not love the grown-ups they have become but...
Anyway I am sure you can well relate to the feeling I felt when I wrote this and may change the names as you like to fit your situation.
So I hereby present a very old and somewhat timeless piece entitled Graduation - "A Plural Thing" - because it does in fact involve us all.

According to the dictionary, in its somewhat annoying and simplistic way, graduation is the act of graduating. It also states that ‘to graduate’ is nothing more than the rite of passage from one level to the next. It is a moving on of sorts or a gradual change from what was to what will be. But all the definitions are singular and therefore do not encompass the true meaning of the word graduation.
My daughter Sara officially graduated from East Meadow High School on June 24th but so did her brother, her mom and most certainly her dad.
The changes to Sara’s life started immediately with senior award ceremonies at the high school and the “Night of Enchantment Prom” in Westbury. In the coming days there will be various graduation parties and a few farewell parties. More changes are on the nearby horizon, as she and her classmates get ready to move out of the only homes they’ve ever known and into dorms across America.
Richard has shared many private moments with his sister laughing and giggling over who knows what. The two of them would sit in a room with the door closed and tell each other funny stories that would cause so much laughter that they eventually had trouble talking. These sessions will soon graduate to a new long distance relationship when Sara starts her freshman year in a dorm at Washington University in St. Louis. And while Richard has his own friends he is comfortable with Sara’s as well. This too will change.
My wife Susan loves her daughter very much. That means the two of them constantly alternate between fighting and laughing. For most of her life Sara made her decisions after discussing the choices with her mom. Whenever Sara goes out with her friends Susan insists that she call us when she arrives at her destination. This is true whether she is the driver or someone else is behind the wheel. This worry over where she is or ‘did she get there yet’ or ‘why didn’t she call’ will soon move on to a newer level of ‘I wonder what she’s doing now’ and ‘why hasn’t she called?’ Well some things may not change all that much after all.
For my part I watched my daughters friends mingle with each other in nervous anticipation as they waited to get into the limos on prom night. The boys, excuse me, young men wearing rented tuxedos and the girls – young ladies – in purchased gowns. I saw kids I had known for many years on the brink of a new world. They were on their way to college and a few more years of study and learning. Then another graduation would occur. In most cases that one will be their last personal scholastic graduation but for now they had only one thing on their minds, a well deserved night, and morning, of fun and enjoyment.
Many of the parents had tears in their eyes but we hid them fairly well. My eyes worked back and forth through the crowd as I took photographs to preserve the moment. Snapping pictures of the present but seeing the past. In my mind was the all too quick procession of mini graduations that led us to this place in time.
The graduation from diapers.
From “mommy and me” groups and nursery school.
From holding hands in public to “please don’t embarrass me in front of my friends."
From McVey Elementary to Woodland Middle and then to East Meadow High School.
From “Can you drive me …?” to “Can I have the car?”
From childhood to adolescence to mature young woman.
From our home was her world to the world is her oyster.
And now this latest graduation will take my little girl away from me. I will miss her. Oh, I know she’ll be back for holidays and next years summer vacation. But she won’t be home. And I won’t be able to see her and hug her and kiss her good night before she goes to sleep, or rather before I do.
I am profoundly proud of my daughter and of her accomplishments and would not think of standing in her way but wouldn’t it be great if I could keep her as she was while she grows into what she is and will be?
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder but in my case that would appear to be an impossibility.
I guess I too will have to graduate. I hope I can do it as well as Sara.

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