Sunday, June 12, 2016

Letting The Alien Go

In seven hours my daughter will finally graduate from high school.

Seven hours.

We're all going to be a little needy today. 

Between now and then, I need to get her up (always a delightful experience). She needs to go to the stable to clean the trailer and tack she used at a big event yesterday (tremendous showing, she qualified for regional championships: happy girl, proud mama). 

She needs to get home by 11:00 because I still need to touch up her manicure. She needs to be dressed and pressed — although the bright red gown can't actually be "pressed" because, apparently, it's made out of the material so enthusiastically recommended to Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate: "One word: plastics." 

We all need to be at the high school by 1:00 so she can queue up for the processional and we can fight the other parents for the best seats in the gym.

(I'm serious. Don't mess with me. I'm from New York and I will hurt you.)

Last night, we spent more time than we expected covering her mortarboard in black rhinestones. Due to its aforementioned substrate ("One word: plastics."), the adhesive backing of the stones wouldn't ... well ... adhere. We tried "tacky glue" from the craft store and finally resorted to "liquid nails."

She isn't exactly thrilled with the result. But, she's done.

Those two words ... "She's done." 

Twelve years of public school (not even including preschool, pre-kindergarten or kindergarten). 2,160 days of reading, writing and arithmetic. Countless hours of studying, papers, tests, field trips, science fairs and winter concerts. 

And, somehow, in between all of that, she found the time to grow up from an adorable little thing in blonde pigtails, pink dresses and sparkly "Dorothy" shoes to the young woman who lives her own life, her own way, out of our house.

And today, she's done.

Why do they call graduation "Commencement" when it's really the end of something? 

It's a common question, and the most common answer is that it also marks the beginning of something new.  "Real life."

Going further back, though, its roots can be traced to the Latin word "commensa," which means a common table for all. Upon completion of their studies and graduation, students were invited to dine with their instructors at a table on a raised platform at one end of the long tables where the students sat. They were now full-fledged members of the university and welcomed as equals of their faculty.

My daughter has been a full-fledged member of our family since the day she arrived. We may have helped her along the way, but she was ever her own person — sometimes alien but always remarkable. I admire her bravery in the face of 1,200 pound horses and 120 pound mean girls. I admire her resilience and her determination; her street smarts and her silliness.

When I left for maternity leave so many moons ago, my boss's sweet wife asked me to express one thing I wished for my baby. Without a pause, I said "The capacity for joy." My wish came true; my daughter has a boundless capacity for joy. 

But, what I maybe didn't expect was that she has increased my own capacity for joy too. Exponentially.

Thank you, Madison Ava.

And thank you, gentle readers, for joining me on the journey. "Happy Graduation."

Let the commencement commence.



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