Today my son graduates high school at two in the afternoon. It’s the culmination of a week of pretty much non-stop activity–parties, baccalaureate, pictures, marching practice, scholarship award night, tuba practice (he’s playing part of his state solo in the graduation ceremony), his own personal graduation party, the arrival of friends and family, and far too little sleep. In a larger sense, though, this is the culmination of a chapter in our life that started in September, 2002, on the day that I dropped him off for Kindergarten, and then went home and wept because my child was growing up.
A lot has happened since then. The tuba. Allergies. Mold. Moves. Love. Loss. Books, art, music. Most of all, friends have happened. They happened a lot this week. Megan, Marty, Morris, Dakota, Donnie, Mike, Leatrice, Adam, Jakob, Zack, Colin, Whitney, Olivia, my sisters Sandy and Shirley (because one of the things the years have taught me is that sisters can be friends, too). My mom.
We’re ready for graduation. We’re ready because we worked hard for it, and because we had friends who helped. And because they helped (and because my sister Sandy just emailed me her pictures from the party) I had a minute to see something I otherwise would have missed.
I looked at the pictures. I saw the faces I’ve seen in my living room and my yard, and in some cases my classrooms for the past nine years. And what struck me was what survivors our children are. In all the romanticizing of the teenage years and prom and homecoming and graduation (and in the case of our town, the Noize Parade) and football and soccer and baseball it’s easy to lose sight of how very, very hard it is to turn from a child to an adult. Our children have done it–and mostly they’ve managed to hold onto the best parts of themselves–the parts we saw in the baby hugs, the kisses good night, the wonder of Christmas, the first trips to the zoo, the stories at night, the ball games in the yard, the conversations on the porch while the stars came out, and the conversations in the car–the hard ones, where we could talk about the things that we needed to without having to look at each other. Cars are good places for that. They force us to listen, rather than look, or run away when we don’t like what we’re hearing.
I look at those pictures, and for every person there I see a challenge met, a win, a loss, a change. And so for The Boy, and for his friends, and for his classmates I had the privilege of knowing in my classrooms, let me just say, “I’m immensely proud of all of you. And while you may not know it, I love you all. You’re good people. You’ve enriched my life, and brought out the best in me.” You’ve let me feed you. You’ve listened to my stories. Sometimes you’ve told me yours. You’ve sat in our living room, and sometimes slept on the floor. Thank you for that. Thank you for sharing your lives with us.