Where do the days go? The weeks, the months, the years? There’s the eight days that have passed since I last posted something here, vanished into thin air. Hmm…I had those days in my back pocket just a minute ago, then poof, gone. And then there’s the two decades, fast-forwarded from the morning we brought our firstborn baby boy home from the hospital, so small he fit inside John’s fleece vest for safekeeping when we went out for a walk…well. Just yesterday, that little fellow, no longer small by any measure, graduated from college. How did that happen? How does this keep happening?
We descended upon the Hanover plain on Sunday morning, armed with our sunblock and binoculars and an array of traveling chairs, the better to set up our own cheering section off to the side, where we could get up and move around at our leisure, and pop out for coffee and donuts when required. We’re getting to be graduate students of graduations, in our family. My lucky boys have aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins who are devoted to the notion of being present for these passages, so everyone rallies to these festival rites, wherever they may be. It’s what we do.
Yesterday was no different. We all know the drill. Mostly, it’s show up—be present to witness the grand moment. Sing the alma mater. Hoot and holler, ring the cowbell, take pictures and forward them around, give and receive hugs at every coming and going, every hello and goodbye. We did it up but good. There will be group photos circulated, which will pronounce the event well-attended. A good time was had by all.
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Meanwhile, speaking of decades, tomorrow is our 30th wedding anniversary. 30 years! Apparently they let babies get married, back in 1983. Or maybe it’s just that what once seemed old enough, now seems so young. Yesterday’s 22-year-olds, marching to pick up their college diplomas, look like proto-adults at best; children, still. Or the sea of 18-year-olds that I ran into last week, heading off to the high school gymnasium, clad in caps and gowns, with parents and grandparents in tow—they all seem so very, very young. I hit that cheerful traffic jam while walking home from the grocery store, and was delighted to find myself in the midst of one more rite of passage, one more opportunity to tip over to that teary-happy place during this season of endings and beginnings. I looked at their fresh faces and could only see so much more for them to come, such a tiny slice of life lived so far. I see it every autumn when the college freshmen pull into town—except that now, what we most notice is how young the parents are. And on and on it goes.
Remember The Circle Game? As I recently told a friend, that Joni Mitchell song of my youth has such different resonance now. I remember vividly being at that point in the circle game, sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone, back when cartwheels were turning to car wheels. It was the next-to-last stop on the song’s carousel of time, just ahead of hitting twenty, when your dreams start losing some grandeur coming true. Here’s what I didn’t realize back then: before you know it, while you’re still in the middle of dreaming your own new dreams, living your own promises, it happens. There you are, parent to a child who is full of wonder, anxious to grow up, impatient for the promises of some day….
What I’ve grown to realize is this: There’s so much more to the circle. Most remarkably, there’s the part where your children’s dreams stop being the childish ones, and start being the dreams of what they will become, who they are growing up to be. Whole new circle. Whole new world.