6.04.2010

High School Graduation Thought

I think I may have missed something many, many years ago. I remember my graduation night and everyone saying, "Congratulations." I kindly said "thanks" over and over again but, honestly, I was thinking, "What's the big deal? It's high school? How could I not graduate?"
But listening to the radio this morning, when I learned about the column below, high school commencement may be less about the accomplishment of graduating and more about the passage of what ends up being a monumental milestone.
I guess, as is so often the case with youth, I was seeing the event from my eyes and not from those that I had a few years under their belts.

Ann Melvin Dallas Morning News 1998 Column on Graduation

The tumult dies.

The graduating seniors in their Ford pickups and secondhand Nissans depart.

For jobs, for the pool, for Grandma’s, for college, for a last, long loopy summer.

Forever.

Or until they need their clothes washed, whichever comes first.

Growing up a child is a series of leave-takings, from the first wobbly step away from the parent’s hand to the first day at school to the first slumber party to the first time he drives out of the driveway with a license.

But high school graduation is a leave-taking of high celebration and of irrefutable recognition that the child will be gone soon.

Too soon, when you remember the night we ran across the dark yard and laughed in pursuit of fireflies. Or the summer evening we drove through St. Louis and rolled down the windows as we crossed the Mississippi, singing “Ole Man River.”

Too soon, when you hear the back door slam and the call, “Mom, I’m home.”

And too soon when you review your own inadequacies as a parent.

As the slow line of caps and gowns files by, the parent sits suffused with pride and fear. “Doesn’t he look handsome?” mingles with a collage of worry:

“When was the last time we talked about God? Nietzsche? The balance of trade? Does he know how to balance a checkbook? Can she check the oil in her car? What about Winston Churchill and ‘The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere’ and Aunt Maggie, who worked as a welder during World War II? Did we tell ‘em that?”

Parents universally want to stand up and holler, “Stop, these kids don’t know enough yet. They don’t fasten the twistie on the bread sack or hang up their clothes or put the milk back in the refrigerator, and you want to turn them out on the world?? Stop!! I forgot to make sure that he prays every night and that she understands HMOs, Social Security and the Roman influence on modern jurisprudence, and did I tell him often enough that I love him?”

“Another year, I need another year.”

But the caps are in the air, the gowns are back in the rental barrel, and we all are standing out on the sidewalk, smiling and crying. Then we go home.

An old carnation begins to shrivel on the bedroom mirror. Notes paper the wall around the telephone, and schedules are leafed like shingles on the refrigerator.

Dress shoes lie askew under the chair, the celebration ham gives up leftovers, and old snapshots spill out of a shoebox on the table.

The first baseball uniform, Christmas at Grandma’s, the seventh-grade gang posing in front of the school bus at the Alamo, the first bicycle with training wheels, party photos from the prom . . . a Kodak collection of split seconds in the start of what you pray will be a good life.

The graduate is in the driveway, leaving again.

You go out, moved to speak your mind.

“I hope you were happy,” you want to say. “I hope life will go well for you. I hope you know I tried my best, and while I know it wasn’t always perfect, I tried to do the best I could for you. Whatever you have learned from me, it isn’t enough, not about life or the world or anything.”

“But I hope you can stand on my shoulders, reach higher and go farther with the little boost I gave you.”

Instead you say, “Do you have enough money? Fasten your seat belt. And call me when you get there.”

Wherever that may be.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

All I can say is, "Boy, does that hit home"! Excellent.

Kat said...

UGH! That article, which was very well written, made my eyes tear up.

I kiss my girls every night and dread the next day - because they grow..so...fast!

Anonymous said...

All so very true.

Anonymous said...

Wow, now THAT is poignant and brought a tear to my eye and lump to my throat. Sometimes I wish for only a little while to have my 26-30 yr olds back as little ones again, just for an hour or two, to hold and to cuddle. It all goes much too fast, but moms remember and always cherish those precious times. Graduation is a bittersweet time for a mom. I remember seeing the excitement in my son's eyes and thinking that I wished he didn't have to grow up so fast, but he was "chompin at the bit" and filled with excitement, which made me happy for him, but really sad for myself.

Anonymous said...

That'll bring a tear to a glass eye.

Anonymous said...

My son graduated last night. As he walked across the stage to receive his diploma, I thought to myself what happened to my little boy. As he smiled I realized he is so happy, but still has so much to learn. My job isn't over it just has begun a new chapter. This article says it all. The love and pride I felt last night was unbelievable. Congratulations to all the graduates. The future is yours to take.

Anonymous said...

Wow! My kids are both already graduated, but this still hits home! Still so much to teach them-----yes, about life. And some, we tried to teach, but they must learn on their own! Afterall, an 18 year old knows everything! Just ask them! I often look back at myself-a high school grad at 17, moved away to college at 17, and never looked back. I made it and I pray they can to. No matter what you do or where you go, be honest (with yourself and others), learn from your mistakes, enjoy what you do for a living and HAVE FUN!!!

Anonymous said...

My oldest graduated last week Barry down here at Peaster. They turned the lights down, turned on some Diamond Rio, and every kid crawled up in the bleachers, to give their parents roses, then their grandparents, then the teachers. The tears fell... This is the best post you ever made. I know it is only high school but i have never been so proud of mine. And my bride for the good job she did getting her raised.
Thanks
Wayland Long

Anonymous said...

Bittersweet!! However, no matter how old they get, where they go, or what they do, you will always be their mom or dad. The job of "mom or dad" ends only the day mom or dad dies. Parenting is so truly a wholesome blessing from God and it just keeps rewarding over and over. I thank God for my children everyday, and I send congratulations and best wishes forward to the new graduates!!

Anonymous said...

Yes, my children are grown and been out of high school for 10+ years, but still seek my counsel and opinion on occasion. Our relationship is now more that of friend and confidante, which is nice, but I still miss the peanut butter kisses and sticky hugs.

Anonymous said...

wow, Thanks, Barry..this is awesome

Anonymous said...

Wayland's post makes me wish all school's were the size of Peaster and had those same values. Roses and Diamond Rio -- GOOD JOB, PEASTER!

Blessings and congratulations to all graduates, from whenever and where ever, as well as to their families and schools.

M-M said...

Barry, I'm so mad at you. I was doing fine until I read that story and have been an emotional wreck ever since. Thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

What great memories of Graduating,the Senior Party out at Grapevine Lake and me and Margaret Sleighglebaum naked in a sleeping bag together.

I often wonder whatever happened to Margaret after that night long ago.

It was said she ran off with a traveling Banjo salesman or somethin.

Anonymous said...

meh

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is that a lot of those little wonderful graduates (mostly the girls but some guys) will most likely end up as one of Barry's "random thoughts pics", or someone else's attempts at lewd, superficial entertainment.

Double fake parent with graduates.

Anonymous said...

Wow, such memories. Of young people growing, yes...but also of the woman who wrote the column. This was not a journlalistic piece written to fill space in a paper...this is Ann Melvin...a very special person.

Anonymous said...

I cried through the whole movie.

Anonymous said...

My youngest is 5 and will start kindergarten in a couple of months. Lately, I have really been trying to soak in the time with her and not take it for granted! Tonight we stopped to buy some ice cream and she asked to carry it. As I handed it to her, I heard her say, "Yummy!" I looked at her, and there she was....licking the ice chunks off of the side of the carton! Before I even opened my mouth to tell her that was nasty, and just plain disgusting, I thought to myself, "one day - you'll miss this!" :)

Anonymous said...

It's too bad they all have no future to look forward to. Obammy gives them no hope.

Anonymous said...

Word 11:38 - word up.

Anonymous said...

Last grandchild of my parents graduated this year. It was hard. He was the baby of 8 cousins. Mine graduated 9 years ago. It's the only one his papa missed but he watched it from heaven. Yep, I am crying.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the graduation piece Barry.

This was so positive and reflects the feelings that we've all had at such times.

Give us more of these BG.

Anonymous said...

My child graduated this past week, and this post touched me like no other. As a mom, I too have all the fears of what I might not have taught my child and wishing I had more time. Well, here I am with only a couple of months left before college, and even though I want desperately to make the most of this precious time, I know that it will be over in the blink of an eye. I haven't been perfect by a long shot, but I've loved my child and tried to teach him to be a good person. Thank you to Barry for posting this article at the perfect time for me!

Anonymous said...

Come on Barry tell us about the TCU vs Baylor baseball game

Anonymous said...

I can hardly see the screen for my tear-soaked eyes. This is wonderful! I'm so glad you shared this Barry!

Anonymous said...

This is so true. Like the lyric of the song from Avril Levine (http://www.todas-as-letras-de-musicas.com)

And that's why I smile