Last weekend was graduation time for the Older Daughter.
These June endings, they always surprise me, and leave me with a rainbow of emotions. Melancholy, hope, sadness, joy, wonder, bewilderment. What is happening to the days of childhood in our home? But in the midst of these transitions that hasten life forward, slipping from our hands, there are glimpses of joy, and mercy, and grace.
This past weekend was deeply meaningful for me, as it marked the graduation of my oldest daughter from high school. That's her (click to enlarge), pointing at us silly yelling family people (in the stands at the football stadium) in the photo above.
We can choose to just just let these milestones pass us by as they happen, without reflection. Or, we can pause, step back for a few moments, take some time, and reflect. What is the deeper meaning of this time of moving forward, looking back, and changing places? And where in all this may Grace, and Joy, and Hope be found?
Thirteen years of school. After pre-school at Calvary Church here in town, we were off to Marengo Elementary School in September 1996; holding a little hand on the first day of Kindergarten. Filing into the classroom in October, on Back to School Night in 2nd grade. Book fairs, school plays, parent days. And then, seemingly without warning, the first day of Middle School; the Semi-Big Leagues of public education. And then, a blur of Middle School plays, sports events, open houses, and homework. Oh, the homework!
And then, again, suddenly, the first day of high school, sports, boys, basketball games, girls water polo at the pool in January (brrr!).
It was a warm afternoon at the high school football field, the setting for graduation each year. For a very long time our town has gathered here each June to mark endings and beginnings. Speeches were made, music was played, names were announced. In less than 75 minutes we were done; over 300 seniors had left the past behind, and were facing a summer of wondering and hoping, before moving on to college, and life beyond, in the Fall.
As all the students left the field, I followed our Kelly with my telephoto lens, taking pictures of these fleeting moments.
And at the end of it all, our otherwise self confident, seemingly omniscient, and often even mature daughter did something I did not expect at all. Something altogether childlike and joyous; filled with glee, and youth, and promise for tomorrow.
After hugging everyone in sight, for just a bit, she skipped across the field toward the exit. Ten yards on the football field. First down. In just those couple of moments, that skipping, for me, illustrated so much of what makes up this remarkable young lady. My eyes filled with tears, a smile broke out on my face, and my heart brimmed with hope. Hope for a whole new generation.
Skipping forward, not looking back. That is how our Kelly will face the future. She is going to DePaul this fall to major in Elementary Education.
How fitting. The future teacher that skips into the future. I am so filled with admiration, and joy, and thankfulness, I could just skip.
And know what? The other day, when no one was looking, I skipped too. For Joy, and Mercy, and Grace.