Well, there we were, in the very last row, trying to get a glimpse of our daughter, a graduate, who, as Murphy's Law would have it, was also in the very last row. A close-up photo was out of the question. Though much to her embarrassment I did run up the isle several times in an attempt to get a shot that upon enlargement might reveal her face amidst this wriggling sea of purple, my efforts were fruitless. I'll have to wait for the school-authorized photo of our daughter in her cap and gown to arrive in the mail. Actually, I should have known better -- this is the fourth and final high school graduation of all our children. You'd think I'd have figured out a better system for the photo op by now.
At any rate, more important than not getting the photo, was the activity churning in my chest. I craned my neck around the heads and hats of the rest of the parents and friends sitting in row upon row ahead of me, and tried to keep a cap on my feelings, which were threatening to bubble over. This is my baby after all -- our youngest child graduating from high school. It is a big deal.
The sun was at that place in the late afternoon sky when it glares unforgivably, and required sunglasses, hat or graduation program to shield one from the bright light. The speeches were mostly boring -- although one of the students used a part of Rumsfeld's famous "there are knowns that we know, and knowns that we don't know..." etc, that got a big laugh, the rest were fairly standard, as graduation speeches go.
I stared at the class of 2008, waiting patiently for the student opera singer, the student quartet, and all the illustrious speakers to complete their parts of the program so we could finally get to the nitty-gritty -- the part where the graduates receive their diplomas. During this interim, my mind got busy pondering all manner of decidedly serious thoughts. It occurred to me that I am now in the 'backseat' of my daughter's life. Newsflash! I'm not the driver anymore, nor have I been for awhile -- and though I might try to be a backseat driver from time to time, it will be entirely up to my beautiful woman-child whether she takes my advice or not. Most of the time, I won't even be in the car. At this thought, I had to put a hand over my heart to keep it from thumping too hard.
Up on the stage, this particular class of 2008 was literally vibrating with excitation and expectation...perhaps for what tomorrow holds for them, but most probably for more immediate concerns, like the all-night school-sponsored party they'd partake in later that evening. My thoughts continued along the non-frivolous vein, eventually landing on the thought of, what state of the world are we launching these young adults into? I wonder what they think about the upcoming election. What do they have to say about Myanmar and Nepal? Where do they stand on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and the latest violence in South Africa? Have they thought about healthcare and a 401K? Will they remember to "Clicket or get a ticket?" Do they realize that mixing drugs and alcohol can kill them? Do they think they need to emulate the so-called stars they see on reality TV shows and splashed across the pages of gossip magazines, or do they hold themselves in higher regard than that? Do they have a moral compass in their pockets to help them find their way?
Obviously these thoughts are much too heavy for a happy graduation day, and are, after all, a litany of Nervous-Nellie concerns from a mother about to be benched. Still, as I nestle down into my backseat position, I will remember that as parents and educators, we've tried to give our kids the tools they need to handle the road ahead. I hope these new graduates will be good drivers; that they will fix roads that are damaged, build bridges across roads that have been divided, and have the courage to travel on roads that are foreign to them.
And to my daughter I say, look in the rearview mirror from time to time, honey. I'll be there in the backseat, loving you, and trying to keep my mouth shut. Congratulations to the class of 2008.