Watching My Daughter Graduate
Thank you for asking; the graduation was lovely. But you can probably sense that’s the party line. The ceremony was actually surreal, emotional and intense. We are, as the old saying goes, in the big leagues. Next stop, university.
In the mix of growing up together these kids have loved each other, hurt each other, admired each other and in the end, I think they’ve come to appreciate the time they’ve shared together. Who knows when and where they’ll resurface in each other’s lives.
As for me, I’ve known a lot of my daughter’s fellow graduates since kindergarten at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston. Over the years, I’ve stayed quiet in my role as chauffeur to eavesdrop on their arguments and their gossip. When they were in that state between dog-tired and overwhelmed, I heard about their dreams and their fears. I’ve watched them sing and dance. I’ve watched them cry and fail. I’ve watched them whoop for joy when they aced a test. I’ve watched them be remorseful as well as get away with murder.
No one grows up without witnesses. As I dabbed my eyes during the ceremony, what flashed through my head as quick as lightning was that no one parents alone either. Whether or not we admit it, we’ve all been in it together. By that I mean we have some piece of real estate in each other’s hearts and memories. We’ll think of each other at random times when we remember the eighth grade play, or the stunning senior class presentation that melded poetry and song and choreography, bringing us to our feet. Or maybe we’ll just sigh over that long-ago last day of kindergarten.
And then at some point we’ll try to figure out when our children grew up. For Anna, maybe it was when she was able to reach into her soul to articulate insights that were hers alone. These past couple of years her spirit and brain were in sync when I read her English essays or rabbinics papers. And yes, there was the college application essay about why she hadn’t learned to drive. (She still doesn’t have her license.)
She wasn’t thrilled about the other cars on the road or having to parallel park. But mostly she was worried about losing the intense, personal connection that we share during our car rides. With her dad she talks science and music. With me it is the latest family news or class intrigue. Sometimes she just needs us to listen as she took apart and put back together the personal conundrum of the moment.
At the graduation ceremony, Anna gave the invocation for the Class of 2012. She wore a graduation cap that made the claim that one-size fits all. But I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that that cap looked unique and beautiful on every single graduate. And yet even in her three-inch wedges, Anna still looked like my little girl going to a big university.