This day, when our seniors cross the stage to receive their diploma, always causes me to reflect on the meaning of Graduation. Meaning that I find monumental and liberating but also frightening and paralyzing. I watch with a degree of envy as the Class of 2019 steps out of the solid world they have known forever to embrace all the newness of tomorrow. From time to time I consider my own ‘graduation’, although a few years off, certainly on the horizon. I wonder, how will I step forward? How will I face inevitable challenges and happy surprises? All the unforeseen and unplanned despite my best calculations? I watch each high school senior mount the stage, study the surety in their stride, follow their upward gaze, listen as they cheer each other on, and wonder, can I emulate their optimistic adventuring spirit? Can I be that audacious? Smile at each dawn?
Memory flooded my mind these weeks. Perhaps leisure during Labor Day Weekend allows that for some of us. This holiday, a century old acknowledgment for those who labor around us, building and mending our structures and infrastructures, three days that neatly divide summer from fall, freedom days from the job-filled days, a weekend when 35 million people hit the road or take to the skies for one last fling, or in the case of many travelers, bring their college students to their respective college; regardless, that long weekend filled me with images. It wasn’t all that long ago that I too drove the highways for that task, and although I would say I eventually got better at those goodbyes, I am reminded of a first one, many years ago, made easier by the wisdom of my mother.
Mothers and their daughters. I do suppose one might say, fathers and sons, but for me, as a daughter and a mother, these two relationships have loomed large. If fact the complexity is still unfolding for me, the relationship I had with my mother, the one I still forge with my daughter. Some of my mother’s finest gifts took years to appreciate. Remembering a Labor Day weekend, years ago, me with a SUV packed full with my daughter and her ‘bare essentials’ as a Freshman entering college, and my mother waiting for us in a five star hotel, is certainly one of those gifts.
This week especially, maybe because of the full moon or who the heck knows, there’s been a divisive air in the air. People have been out to get someone. Even people who normally bat for your team, now are eyeing you sideways, judging your every move. I’ve done my best to ignore these astrological blasts in the past, but the last few days, wow, it’s stretched my good nature. Tonight, instead of crawling deep into fetal, we decided to blast the other direction, head to game night.
Driving along my road home, both front windows open, the sky draws my eyes upward. This is one of those late spring days that you remember. Actually, it is just this moment, not the whole day, but you get my meaning. Ordinary yet memorable. Worth holding on to a little longer. The scene? Rolling hills all around me. Cows out to pasture. Horses too. Green fields popping with yellow dandelions. A flock of geese settled down momentarily by a reedy pond. Black birds darting from one side of the road to the other as a dare, they play, cavalier about the outcome. How close they flap by my bumper! Crabapple blossoms cover each and every branches with puffs of pale pink and even speeding past their fragrance is a wafting sweetness. All this in one flash of a moment.
Headlines from coast to coast state the current crisis in our leadership better than I could…of course you might want to dig a bit and read past the headlines, but if you’re pressed for time, these statements might be all you need to gauge the American opinion of who exactly is at our helm.
Trump Gives White Supremacists an Unequivocal Boost (New York Times)
Trump Loses Corporate America (Wall Street Journal)
Trump administration wants to praise the county mayor in Miami. He just slammed Trump (Miami Herald)
David Duke and Donald Trump and the long ties of history (Chicago Tribune)
Former presidents Bush rebuke Trump’s neo-Nazi stance (Dallas News)
Maybe it’s the hundreds of poetry essays moving in red folders across my table in the AP Literature scoring room, or the company of hundreds of English teachers, all equally obsessed over words, but as soon as I saw this morning’s headline on a discarded newspaper on the conference center cafeteria table, my mind flooded with questions and outrage about gun violence. I don’t want to minimize this latest shooting (prayers to all involved) but… this is what will cause Washington to become stunned over the epidemic that has been spreading like wildfire in our communities?
A few years ago I wrote about graduates. In the ensuing years I thought that was all I ever wanted to say about that topic, that edge of time, that walking off process, that bravery. Until now. Because as wonderful as the notion of moving on is, it is also terrifying. Often impossible. Sometimes only accomplished by crawling. And stopping. And being nudged until you crawl forward again. As we applaud those who boldly walk and do so with ease, there are many who can not. Theirs is a walk of anxiety and missteps. Of not showing up. Of hanging back. Of not joining in. Of fearing what lies ahead far more than driving on. Their achievements seem to pale in those celebratory moments. What of them? I wondered as I sat in the packed gymnasium filled with graduates and their families.