Friday, May 27, 2016

To my daughter on her graduation day

Was it 14 years ago that I sat in a festively decorated school auditorium and watched my four-year-old daughter “graduate” from pre-school?

The Thornridge Preschool did not skimp on the pomp and circumstance. Our daughter, Sabrina, wore a tiny white satin gown and a matching white graduation hat. The teachers made dozens of pastel tissue paper flowers that covered the small stage.

Our daughter was over-the-moon excited for the celebration. She had ordained that the post-graduation festivities would include McDonald’s Happy Meals for everyone.

That night, her dad and I sat on metal folding chairs and watched our little daughter walk up the aisle then sing with her classmates. The whole thing was adorable. Most of the time, however, Sabrina was distracted, admiring the little boy named Riley standing next to her. Riley was the class clown, and whenever they sang, Riley would sing theatrically, throw his arms out to the side like Pavarotti. Sabrina thought he was hilarious.

When it came time for the end, the teacher had the children read a graduation poem. I don’t remember the exact words (something about I’m leaving you forever), but I do remember that I began to weep profusely. It was an over-the-top, stick-a-knife-in-your-mama’s-heart song about growing up and never being your baby again and how life was going to change and waving goodbye.

I thought my heart would crack in two.

And now I am on the morning of my daughter’s graduation from Seabreeze High School. In the blink of an eye, fourteen years have passed. And in her closet hangs a red satin graduation gown and cap waiting to be worn. I am proud of her, much more proud than I was when she was four.

How can my heart contain so much? How can the memories not spill over in one huge hormonal wave of sentimentality?

Certainly this graduation carries more weight. She has accomplished a great deal. She has a perfect academic record: straight A’s from kindergarten to senior year. She has studied long hours and carried a monstrosity of a backpack. And she has had challenges. She faced off with a classmate bully in fifth grade, a girl who stole her best friend. And, then we moved her from one state to the next in the middle of high school.

But through the good days and the hard ones, my daughter continues to amaze me. She has earned the title of National Merit Scholar and then an incredible college scholarship. She is beautiful, and talented, and kind. She can draw the perfect cat’s eye liner and singlehandedly got the school newspaper up and running. Not only that, but she just found an elusive creature on her Nintendo DS Pokemon game. While I don’t always completely understand, her joy makes me happy.

I know her. I love her. And, I’m so incredibly proud of her.

So when she crosses that stage this time, I know I will be a mess. A big, fat, sloppy mess. Because this time means even more. We are in transition, her and I. I know that life is changing. And this graduation is the real thing.

So today I’ll focus on the now, not tomorrow. I’ll celebrate her yesterdays and hold my breath just a bit as I think about our future. I’ll take it one step at a time and thank God from the bottom of my heart for this gift of us, of today, of joy.

So proud of you, Sabrina.