Monday, June 27, 2011

Beginnings and Endings

Today I watched my son graduate from high school. I was in this exact same spot one year ago, when our first born made her way across the stage. And yet, just as they have been so very different in their eighteen years of growing up together, their high school finalities were also very different.

We thought we’d have an advantage this year. Last year we read all the handouts and mapquested all the locations, figuring out the graduation ceremony for the first time. It’s somewhat like throwing a sweet sixteen party, or being in charge of a bridal shower. There is much to know, that the first timers have to learn, either by reading, researching the internet, or being guided by those who have gone before. Then, once you’ve survived all the steps the first time, you feel confident, much less like a rookie. You go into the next experience feeling like you somewhat know the way.

But, just our luck, the system changed this year. It was a new venue, a new set of details to figure out. We felt like the newbies all over again. And even this year’s successful navigation won’t add to our expertise, as we are preparing to move two thousand miles away. Our last two sons will most likely graduate from high schools in Colorado.

Three years from now, we’ll start all over again.

But as much as the set up was different - the parking, the seating, the place we met up after the ceremony, the system for tracking down his actual diploma - the feelings were very much the same. The swell of emotion every time that crowd of gown-draped kids cheered, radiating the excitement of their accomplishment. The struggle to maintain my attention span, as speaker after speaker shared thoughts on the day. The pride I could hardly contain when my boy’s name, the same name his grandfather carried, ricocheted across the auditorium.

It’s all part of the graduation package.

There are times that I wonder if we’ve cheated our children somehow, by moving to different states, several times in their childhood. Many of my son’s friends have known each other from elementary school. Some even shared classrooms and playgrounds in their preschool years. My son will never know that feeling.

But just when I start to beat myself up about my son’s transient life, I hear familiar names. Kids he’s run track with for all of his high school years. Kids he’s hung out with at countless movie nights and sleepovers. Kids who’ve walked through my house, smiled their huge smiles, and answered me so politely when I’ve quizzed them about the details of their evening plans. My son has connections here.

One of the benefits of all the moves he’s made in his lifetime is adaptability. He knows how to walk into a new school, a new classroom, and soon a new college, and hold his head high. He knows that a friend is always somewhere on the other end, and that if you put yourself out there, relationships will follow. He will carry many New York friends with him, in spirit, as he ventures across the country to start his college career in a West coast school. He’s already figured out who else is going West, and planned ways that they can all find each other in the months to come.

Facebook and texting are a gift of the times. He will never have to ‘dig up’ old high school friends on Facebook. They’re already there, and will continue to be a part of his life, even two thousand miles away. As he plows his way through yet another new school, and more new classrooms, he’ll build his friend base. He’ll collect more like minded people into his orbit, and find his way into new adventures with them. They won’t replace his old friends in New York, they’ll only add depth to his already rich life.

We have a lot of transition in our life right now. We’re still knee deep in selling a house we’ve grown to love. We’ve lived in this house longer than any other since we began our cross country moves ten years ago. There are marks on the wall that show the inches (and feet!) our children have grown, since we first set up our beds in this structure. We’re very ready to make our move to a new state, but I never underestimate how hard it will be to walk away from this house.

Today I still have four children living under my roof. In two weeks my oldest will move out, into an apartment with a friend. A month after that, we drop off our newly graduated boy at his college dorm. And suddenly we will be a family of four. The last time we were a family of four was fifteen years ago. It will be a mind boggling adjustment.

But as I saw once again today, life is about beginnings and endings. This boy, who landed in New York five years ago as a tiny, timid eighth grader, marched confidently across a graduation stage today.

Life moves on. We move on. And as Helen Keller once said, “Life is nothing, if not a daring adventure.” The gown has now been tucked in the closet, the tassel packed in a box.

My boy is quickly wrapping up his experiences in New York and mentally moving on. I guess I should follow his lead.

I guess it’s time for the next adventure to begin.

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