I did not cry at my daughter’s college graduation. People told me I would. I thought that I would. I just sat through 3 hours of pageantry anxiously awaiting a 5 second announcement of her name as she walked across the stage, shaking hands with dignitaries, a radiant smile across her face.
The pavilion was lovely with banners, beautiful plants strategically placed to conceal the risers leading to the stage. The symphonic band played a piece from Carmen as well as the traditional Pomp and Circumstance March while graduates filed in, all with black tassels, some with black and gold, the distinguished gold representing some outrageous cumulative GPA. All 1250 grads bounced in, lightness in their steps, tassels swaying side to side. I scanned the faces of the diverse audience, people from all backgrounds, all colors, all proud of their own children, with their own unique stories.
In the 90 degree heat while waiting to enter the pavilion, my husband ever the competitor, would quietly whisper in my ear as grads in their gowns walked past, black, black, black, black and gold, black, black, black. A bit of comedy, a relief as we anxiously awaited our entrance. Our daughter wore black and gold.
I wish I weren’t so critical of speakers. I tried to find some degree of inspiration in the welcome and keynote address. After all, these are well-respected individuals, accomplished and worthy of being selected to speak to the masses. Nothing. I sat there frustrated hoping that any of them might say something that we don’t already know. Honorable in their intentions, I kept searching for something, anything subtle that might inspire these graduates. Rather, the message in part, was bleak with global economic concerns peppered throughout.
Attention all family, friends and anyone who happens to interact with a recent college graduate. Please do not mention how bad the economy is. These kids know this all too well. This does not motivate or inspire them. They should be basking in the glory of their accomplishments, hopeful for their futures. Ready to put their knowledge to task, eager for financial independence and to make their way in a world that is ever changing. Not be reminded how difficult it will be. At least not on the day they graduate college.
After the ceremony, she told us about the blue stole she wore over her gown. It is the stole of gratitude to be given to someone who has inspired and supported her throughout her life. She gave it to us.
Our family celebration was memorable, good food, tasty drink, laughter, toasts to our daughter and her roommates. Many a memory passed through my mind as the night wore on. I felt myself drift back at different stages of her life, of my life and of how I’ve loved every moment of it. And then came the letter.
She handed us a hand written letter she wrote back in September 2009, on the first day of her last year of college. The contents are too intimate to share, but just imagine what you’d want a child you’ve raised to say to you.
My daughter has had a blessed life. And she recognizes that. We are partly responsible for that. But mostly, she is, with the options she’s considered, the choices she’s made and the lessons she’s learned. I am profoundly proud of her and not because of her accomplishments. I am proud of her curiosity. I’m proud of her kindness and compassion. In all that she does, there is evidence of excellence and grace. I am proud of the young woman she has become.
The stole drapes our mirror. The letter sits on the dresser to be read and reread over and over. As I looked at it before I shut my eyes after a very long day, on the day that I did not shed a tear, that’s when I cried. I cried my own river, tears of love and gratitude.
On our refrigerator is a well worn poem from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. I have it’s essence memorized.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you
with His might that His arrow goes swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness:
For even as He loves the arrow that flies so He loves also the bow that is