Another one of those major landmarks seems to have snuck up on me when I wasn’t looking. I tend to be so busy on a daily basis, just keeping my life organized, being in touch with my kids, hoping to help them solve their problems, meeting my writing deadlines and leading my life with all its minor details, and then BLAM!!! Suddenly you are face to face with one of those moments that stop you in your tracks, and you realize that something enormously important just happened.
After working very hard, getting terrific grades, and the usual grousing about how tired she was of school and couldn’t wait to finish—–my youngest daughter just graduated from college. WOWWWWW!!!! Talk about a landmark event. I’m not sure even she realized how momentous it would be, and for a while, like all my kids, she threatened not to ‘walk at graduation’, because it would be ‘so boring and stupid’, and then she decided to do it. (Damn right, I’ve been waiting all these years for that moment, so I could watch her walk in her cap and gown, and feel giddy as she did it!!). She was taking finals, finishing papers, and doing all the stuff people do before they graduate, and I was busy planning a family lunch for her and a party afterwards. I don’t know why, but with major events, one seems to get distracted by the details. And then suddenly, the day was here. The whole family flew in last Thursday night, and we’re a big group. Everyone was crowded into the kitchen, meals were suddenly a jubilant affair, and you practically had to jostle your way in for a place at the table, or to get into the fridge. And I have to admit, I love it when my house is like that. After 9 kids growing up, anything less than that seems too quiet. So the gang was all at home, every bedroom was full, and in the morning, everyone was rushing to get ready. And suddenly there we were, in the beautiful cathedral on campus, and the Big Day had come at last. There are so many of us that we filled two pews in the church where the ceremony was held, and we were all craning our necks to see her as she came in, and it was impossible to see her in the crowd, seated at the opposite side of the church. Professors filed in wearing their academic robes in many colors, with all the paraphernalia that went with it, scarves and stripes to indicate if they had a masters or a doctorate, from which school, and hats of many styles, and a sea of young people in black robes and mortarboards, with their tassels hanging from their hats, and suddenly as I stood there, and then sat down for the ceremony, I realized what was happening. My baby was graduating. We had made it through Kindergarten, first grade, into middle school, slid into high school and onto college, survived first romances, first heartbreaks, and suddenly with practically no warning, she was this gorgeous grown woman in a cap and gown, and GRADUATING from college…….the reality of it was overwhelming, and I felt my eyes fill with tears. And in the pews with me were my other grown up children, who had made it to adulthood too. I’m sure it sounds crazy, but I’m not actually sure that the full force of it hit me til that moment. And yes, they are still young (it’s only been two years since our last graduation, and we’ve had one a year for years, since kindergarten), but the simple reality is that they are grown up, they actually made it through something hard to do, and I felt as though my daughter was going to grow wings and fly as I watched her. She looked beautiful when she filed past us, and happy and relieved, and so outrageously grown up as the President of the school handed her her diploma. I have absolutely no idea how this happened, or how the time went so quickly. When you’re in the thick of it, you think they’ll be kids forever, and suddenly they aren’t kids anymore, they are whole people with their own ideas and dreams and goals, and you are the second skin they shed as they fly past you.
I suppose our kids will always need us in one form or another, and we are all always children to some degree with our parents. Our parents are the place we can go to, to be silly, let our hair down, and do the same dumb things we did as kids. And then feeling strong and refreshed, we fly off again. I tried hard not to focus on how momentous it was, and how earth shattering, as we kissed her and celebrated her, and exclaimed over her diploma, and how gorgeous she looked in her cap and gown. (Thank God she is not entirely grown up, and has shocking pink hair on one side of her hair, and sometimes dark purple or just black on the other. She is my Rock and Roll ‘cool’ baby, with a passion for music, and hoping for a career in music production). We gave her a big party the next night, and she was beaming all weekend, probably with relief and the sheer joy of it. And what an accomplishment, I am soooooo proud of her!!! And for me, the weekend flew past in a blur of astonishment, I kept wanting to roll the film back and figure out how it all went so quickly…..when did she slip from childhood into womanhood, when did she become a grown up, and how did she manage to finish college so damn fast? Life passes in a blur, while you’re washing the bathtub, folding the laundry, driving car pool, or cleaning out your closets. It zips by you, when you let the dog out, or take a child to buy a new pair of sneakers, or wonder if they’ll ever clean up their room or will it just be a mess forever. And suddenly you are faced with a woman (even in pink hair), a woman who is accomplished, who has met her goals, done what she set out to do, and done it well. I take no credit for her accomplishments, she did it all herself. And I have just been so very lucky to be standing next to her for all these years, loving her, and being proud of her and cheering her on. And maybe one day I’ll figure out how it all went so fast, and in the meantime, I’m just so glad that with all her accomplishments, she still giggles, can still act like a kid sometimes and has pink hair. I will never, ever forget that moment. It was different than all our other graduations, when I could blithely tell myself that I had seven, or six, or four, or even two more at home. This was indeed a landmark moment, and a memory I will cherish of her all my life. It was a beautiful, beautiful day, and I will forever remember that shining face, with her pink hair, in her cap and gown. WOWWWWWWW!!!!!!! She Did It!!!!! And I am soooo proud of her!!!