I tried to get the Dude to dress for pictures the day before, but like every other day that week, he was at a graduation party. Clearly, we’d be taking photographs afterwards. Thank goodness he didn’t have to turn in his cap and gown.
“Hey Dude,” I said. “If you really have to throw your cap, make sure you come back with one afterwards.”
“Why would I want to throw my cap?” He got into his friend’s car and they disappeared.
On graduation morning the Dude woke up with barely enough time to take a shower and get the ends of his tie to match up before running out the door.
The Dude’s Dad and I were a little more prepared. In fact, we had a plan. The Dude’s Dad is really good at plans. We had to leave late enough to minimize the amount of time standing on the sidewalk outside the auditorium in 95 degree weather. On the flip side, we had to leave early enough that I-66 was still HOV, so we could bypass the long line of single occupant cars pulled over by the police at 8:45. We’d secured a prepaid parking spot a few blocks from the auditorium and I’d even worn flats.
For once, events followed plan and The Dude’s Dad and I took our seats to watch 500 kids march across the stage and receive a blank folder.
The room was full of celebratory energy, yet held an undertone of sadness. I’d been getting information emails in the weeks leading up to the big day, each one bemoaning the arrival of another “last”. I’m pretty attached to The Dude, but I was anything but melancholy.
I’ll admit, I teared up a little hearing the orchestra play “Pomp and Circumstance,” but it was partly due to the fact many of them were better players than I am, and I’m petty that way. As the graduates filed in, we scanned heads to see if we could spot the Dude. At 6-foot-4, he’s pretty easy to spot, even if everyone is dressed alike. The Dude scanned the crowd, but couldn’t see us, so I waved, along with 500 other mothers. He’d have to trust we were watching.
The speeches covered the usual territory; assertions that despite high school sucking like an Electrolux, these were the best days of their lives, along with assurances that things would get even better than that. They spoke of hard work, dedication and perseverance, but mostly, a lot about partying, with thinly veiled references to activities they think the parents aren’t aware of. (Every generation of teens think they discovered sex, despite the evidence to the contrary. After all, they exist.)
Given the Dude’s last name starts with “E”, we didn’t have to wait long to see him cross the stage. They’d hired a photographer, which was good, since even with a zoom, the Dude looked like a green ant. He exited, and the Dude’s Dad and I turned towards each other for a high five.
Raising the Dude was a joy. Turning him into an adult was more like a bad Monty Python skit. Equal parts painful than funny, impossible to understand much of the time, and about twice as long as it needed to be. My husband pulled out his IPhone to answer emails, while I pondered my ambivalence with watching my son graduate high school.
Then I got it.
Graduating high school is his right of passage. It isn’t mine. He got himself through high school. Yes, his Dad and I
nagged helped, but the work was all his. The memories are his. The triumphs and the tumbles, all his. So I don’t feel sad. I’m happy for him.
And I’m happy for me.
My right of passage will come in August, when I wake up in the morning, on my own schedule, then work through my own agenda until 3:00 when it dawns on me that he won’t be popping through the door to flop on my floor and pretend he isn’t dying to talk about his day. I will miss him terribly, while I’m having the best time of my life. I guess I have more in common with a high school senior than I thought.
After the ceremony was complete, we wove through the crowd looking for the Dude. Or more accurately, I wove through the crowd, while the Dude’s Dad scanned over the top of the crowd to find the only person in the room taller than he is. When the Dude walked over, he was twirling the tassel around his finger, no cap in sight.
“You said you wouldn’t throw your cap.”
He leaned his elbow against my shoulder, accentuating the difference in our height. “I never said that.”
Of course he did. I knew he would. It’s what a graduate does.
And as I feigned annoyance by scowling, just to be sure we had at least one, my husband snapped a picture.