“Are you all excited for Leo’s graduation?” my friends Ann and Gail asked me today at lunch.
And in typical Betsy fashion I answered in a typically unconventional way. I went on a long-winded rant about how jaded I am when it comes to graduation ceremonies. After all, I’ve been to fifteen of them between the three kids and their pre-school, kindergarten, elementary, middle school, high school and college graduations. It should have been sixteen but I was blessed with acute pancreatitis and was in the ICU for Leo’s pre-school ceremony. I don’t have a valedictorian like the adorably brilliant Deijah Lee-Carroll and so what if my kid gets to wear Student Ambassador and Honor Roll sashes, I never saw him open a book the entire four years so it makes me wonder if he really earned them or maybe he paid someone, and on and on.
Poor Ann and Gail. They are two of the kindest friends I have and all they did was ask a simple question to which a simple, “yes” would have sufficed. I do this to them all the time and am in constant wonderment of why in the world they continue to open their hearts to a psycho like me.
I came home from lunch and started a half-hour texting rampage with the daughter who is riddled with anxiety over her upcoming move to New Orleans that we are forcing her to do alone. Not by choice, but by logistics. If I could, I’d be there. I am always there. But, alas, I have to be on a cruise sipping Mai Tais on the Lido deck with my friend Patty while Molly is driving. Alone. To New Orleans. Where she could get lost. Or get a flat tire. Or get held at gunpoint. Or break her ankle. Yes, she said that.
Which led me to start thinking about packing for my trip. In making my lists I realized I never bought the shoes I absolutely have to have and now it’s too late to mail order and I can’t possibly go to the mall between now and Sunday because I have way too much work to do and it’s the Hearts Tournament in Philadelphia on Saturday and Leo has to go to orientation at Rutgers on Thursday and should I wear white pants to the graduation or will they get dirty on the bleachers and the spouse is going out of town and who will remember to give the dog the Lyme’s disease pills when I’m away and I have to book a flight for Max back to Los Angeles and who’s going to do the grocery shopping when he goes back and my sister is moving to Charleston and where are we going to have Thanksgiving dinner and where is the hidden stash of M&M’s?
M&Ms never lie. When I inhale massive amounts of chocolate without tasting them, without getting a stomach ache, without breathing between gulps, I know it’s time to stop and figure out what’s going on.
And when I did, that’s when it hit me.
Tonight is Leo’s graduation.
And, no I’m not excited for my last kid to graduate from high school. But it has nothing to do with the pomp and circumstance I profess to abhor.
Actually, I kind of like the ceremonies.
I love seeing the kids. I love their white-toothed smiles. I love when the parents scream “That’s my Baby!” despite being repeatedly told to hold their applause. I even love their stupid balloons they bring to block our view. I love the speeches and the flipping of the tassels and the kids taking pictures with the grandparents who came from Florida even though the Project Graduation buses are beeping their horns the minute it’s over to get going to the overnight party that I love to chaperone.
I love seeing the future in those graduates’ eyes. I love seeing their hope, their joy, their ambition. I love remembering the shy kindergartners they once were and seeing how they’ve blossomed. And I love thinking about who they’ll be and where they’ll live and what they’ll be doing ten years down the road.
I love the memories these kids have made. The secrets they have. The friends they cherish. I love the lessons they’ve learned. The heartbreaks they’ve had. The scrapes they’ve escaped. The things we parents will never, ever know.
I’ve loved the slamming of the backdoor as the kids paraded into my house. I’ve loved the pounds of pasta I’ve boiled on the stove. I’ve loved the empty water bottles strewn all over the basement (and yes, I will continue to believe they were never filled with anything but). I’ve loved the hundreds of high school sporting events I’ve watched and the multitudes of PTA and Board of Ed meetings I’ve attended. I’ve loved helping dozens of kids write their college essays and reading them the riot act when they’ve done something they shouldn’t have done (you know who you are). I’ve loved the commotion, the chaos, the complaining.
Yes, indeed, just as I once sang along with Billy Joel’s record spinning round and round and round on the turntable in my bedroom,
“I’ve loved these days.”
And so, my friends, when you asked how I felt about Leo’s graduation, I hope you know my lunchtime rant was just for my own protection.
I’ve had three kids and many, many years to prepare. But now that it’s here, somehow, I’m just not ready. And there’s not a thing I can do about it.
So, I’ll snap a picture of my handsome son in his cap and gown, post it on Facebook, swallow another handful of M&Ms and head off to his graduation.
I’ll be the one in the back, wearing the sunglasses to hide my tears.