“It happened too fast!”
“My baby can’t be old enough. Wasn’t she just teething?”
“Once they go through the door as freshmen, those last four years go quickly and senior year is the fastest of them all.”
These are all things that I’ve heard people say about reaching the life-milestone that is high school graduation. I had to trust them, I hadn’t been through it … until now. The first of my three just pomp and circumstanced her way across a stage in a funny looking cap and gown, and grabbed a snazzy pleather folder with a hard-earned piece of paper inside.
While I don’t think it went by too fast, I can see why it feels that way.
The last four years have felt like, well, four very full years. Just like the ones that preceded them, they were twisty, turny and hilly. The ups were very up, the downs very down, and the rest? A long winding road.
Since August I was waiting for the overwhelming, forewarned, and tear-inducing where did the years go? feeling. As our journey traveled through fall into spring and through all the (many) senior year traditions, I was dry-eyed.
By the time May arrived I hadn’t shed as much as a mist. Nothing.
A couple of weeks before graduation I joined the entire school body and a sizable collection of parents to watch a senior slide show. Each graduate had submitted a picture of a young version of themselves and one from their senior year. Quiet music played while everyone saw the first, then the second photos.
In a snap, the kids grew up: Toddler to teen in two seconds.
A picture of a baby sitting in a high chair like my daughter had appeared.
I saw a toddler wearing an outfit mine had worn — SNAP — grow up.
Kids that I have known since the first picture was taken — SNAP — became adults.
The tear rolled down my face.
After I viewed my own daughter’s insta-transformation, the foolishly worn, non-waterproof mascara was smeared under my eyes. Not an ugly cry, but there were sniffles.
In the weeks before graduation, each time I mentally relived the moment when Bekah’s 3-year-old picture was on the slide show screen, the senior photo didn’t immediately snap into view, instead I recalled a full road of memories.
On graduation day I steeled myself and applied waterproof mascara. I put a fresh packet of tissues in my purse and beamed when she entered with her class all decked out in the same flowy outfit.
But I didn’t cry.
I waited and applauded through most of an alphabet of seniors before she was finally in the Next position. And then … .
Smile and walk with purpose.
Disappear into crowd of other freshly minted alums.
Still, tears didn’t come, but suddenly I had grown a heavy heart with a hopeful outer shell.
I remembered being in her position and the excitement of heading off on a new course of my own choosing. I was thrilled for my daughter but I realized that the road we had been traveling together was forking.
For me, when she crossed that stage it symbolized the passing of her childhood from my windshield into my rear-view mirror. “Bekah, you are now in the driver’s seat of your own future. Call often.”
I wasn’t heavy-hearted because her journey from her birth through childhood went by too quickly. I was sad because it was finished.
I had such a wonderful trip with her that I didn’t want it to end.
Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go to thehistorychicks.com.