Friday, June 05, 2009


I took my love and I took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hill

About seven months ago, I posted a blog called Crossroads which reflected upon the issues facing our new President, Clay Aiken as well as my own family. I wrote about how focused I was on the complex process of applying to colleges with my daughter. I remember reflecting“In the chaos and complexity of common application, recommendations, deadlines, college tours, FAFSA and a mountain of paperwork, there is the real human emotion of preparing your child to leave you.” But back in December, that seemed like miles ahead of me.

This afternoon, under a cloudy Massachusetts sky, I will hear the familiar strain of Pomp and Circumstance. I’ve heard it plenty of times before, when you are in the high school band; you play it so many times each spring that you hope you never hear it again. But never has it had as much meaning as it will today.

Our town’s high school is on a small hill, overlooking the athletic fields. At 7 PM, those bleachers will be filled with parents, grandparents, siblings and friends but the anticipation won’t be over a soccer tournament. When the first notes of that overplayed tune begin to float through the wind, all eyes will turn to the hill. The hill, where I took two toddlers sledding whenever there was a good New England snow storm. The hill, where for 30+ years, seniors have snuck out at midnight to burn their class year in giant numbers into the grass. The hill, which has had 2009 burned in it since September, yet I’ve hardly noticed.

Then they will come. The boys dressed in green, the girls in white, with their green tassles catching a breeze on top of that traditionally strange headdress. They will walk across those numbers and down the hill, as if crossing an invisible threshold into adulthood.

I’ll try to catch her eye. She’s taller than most of the girls, so I’ll probably find her easily. Beautiful with a face that defies the need for makeup. It sometimes makes me uncomfortable to walk in the mall with her; she turns so many heads that it feels like there is a spotlight on us. Tall like her father, with the tendency to plan like her mother, but only if the topic interests her. She’s got her father’s attitude on life and her mother’s academic proficiency. Where the beauty comes from, we’ve never been able to figure out.

And the others who have been her circle of laughter and love will come. Most I’ve known since the first grade. Many of them just walk into my house now without knocking. I’m sure the lump will stay in my throat for the entire ceremony.

Time makes you bolder, children get older
I’m getting older too.

Ashley, who tragically lost her mother in their sophomore year. The school spirit winner with the huge smile and the broken heart. I will never forget the pleading eyes that came to me in September asking for help in choosing a major and a college and figuring out the applications. I took her on tours, I answered confused text messages late in the evenings, I edited her essay on the impact her mother’s death has had on her, both of us stopping to have a good cry before we uploaded it. She was the inspiration of my college consulting business.

Chel, the good friend for many years, now looking to be a journalist. Lizz, another friend who lost her mother and persevered despite a learning disability. Carrie, the only other tall one with the brains to match her height and the big foot occasionally in her expressive mouth. Arianna, the semi-wild one who couldn’t get focused on school because of a poor support system at home. Those girls took her under their wing and each did their part to get her to pass those extra classes so that she could walk down that hill with them on this day.

I’ve been ‘fraid of changing, cuz I
I built my life around you.

And then they will call her name. Her full name with my grandmother’s name in the middle. The woman who meant so much to me and who would have loved this young woman to pieces since they share a quirky sense of humor.

She’s waited for this day, counted down to it and yet has been very introspective in the past week since she finished her senior classes. I think the enormity of it all finally hit her. She knows. She knows that the future is right around the corner. I hope she knows how bright that future is.

She’s already got her class schedule for college Freshman year, an interesting mix of liberal arts and mass media/advertising. In some ways, she is following in my footsteps yet the goals she has set for what she wants to do with her training are very different. She’s braver than I was at that age, both philosophically and physically. It wouldn’t surprise me if she tries sky diving. Her spontaneity will get her in trouble from time to time but she will also experience things that I may have walked away from and have been the poorer for it.

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Eighty-six days from now, we will move her into her new dorm at a private college about 90 minutes from here. I can’t even type that concept without getting emotional. You hope that the value system you’ve instilled in your children will carry them through the exhilaration of being on their own, while exposed to new temptations and to people who may not share the same value system.

Her friends say she is the one that is most likely to be famous. Perhaps. She already is the one that has been mostly likely to be loved.

Happy Graduation Day, baby girl.

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