New Chapters

It’s happening in my house again.

Another kid is moving on.

And while this time it’s only promoting to high school, in my bones I can feel a shift.

My babies are growing up. And I am so very proud.

My daughter will stand proud this evening in her promotion robe, along with her bestest friend since they were babies.

And then they will  move on.

I will write about it, once the dust settles. Once I catch my breath at the quickness of those nine years of school.

But for today I share again what it was like last year at this time…when Pomp and Circumstance filled my heart.

 

Pomp and Circumstance

I almost don’t recognize him as he walks down the hallway from his bedroom.

Long black gown adorned with honor cords; black cap and 2011 tassel in his man-sized hands.

He’s ready to go.

His graduation is the end-result of spelling tests and learning cursive; of sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the rug and using his listening ears.

Of years of group projects, PowerPoint presentations, and cramming for finals; of early-morning alarm clocks and the pounds of heavy books he carried on his back.

And while somewhere deep inside me I can feel the tears, as he stands before me now I just feel pride.

The tears can wait for now.

Truth be told, there were tears earlier in the day. Pre-emptive tears, shed while dusting the family pictures and feeling mournful of the little boy smiling back at me from the frames.

I offer him a ride to the school, so we won’t have too many cars there when the ceremony is over.

Always logical, this mom.

The first time I left him in this parking lot, I watched him walk in with his backpack loaded and new shoes, ready to take whatever high school was ready to throw his way.

I can’t help but watch him as he walks in for the last time.

Walking tall and proud, in his gown.

Now he’s ready to go.

An hour later I sit in the football stadium, the dull roar of family and friends surrounding me. People have made banners and signs; hold bouquets of flowers and balloons for their graduates.

I hold nothing but my breath.

The band cues up the traditional Pomp and Circumstance song and far across the field I see the line of graduates begin filing in.

Gold gown, then black; girl, then boy.

Over five hundred of them, but there’s only one I’m looking for in the crowd.

At least one hundred students march towards their seats until I see him enter the stadium.

I bite my lip to catch myself from crying as I stare at this young man who used to hold my hand to cross the street; who wore footie jammies and loved mac and cheese.

Confident and proud, he carries himself around the corner and down the row to his seat.

The obligatory speeches follow, a medley of songs sung, the national anthem applauded.

And then, the names.

Over five hundred names. Air horns blow, cowbells clang, family and friends scream.

His row stands and begins their walk towards the podium.

More cheers, more cowbell.

And finally, they call it.

The name I wrote on that card in the hospital seventeen years ago.

There he is, my baby boy.

And he’s ready to go now.

This is College?

When I was in college, during that time commonly referred to as back in the day, there were certain things we came to expect.

Things that helped us have a more predictable existence in our daily lives, even though the chaos of college life was part of the fun.

We knew that the pork served in the cafeteria for Sunday dinner had a certain rainbow-hue to it when exposed to sunlight. It became known as Rainbow Pork, and when paired with mashed potatoes and green beans it was enough to make you miss mom’s home cooking.

Even if mom wasn’t that great of a cook.

We knew that the greatest distance traveled in the shortest amount of time was between your dorm room and the cafeteria at 11:59am on a Saturday morning.

Because they closed at noon.

You knew that your first-year dorm room would be exactly the same as everyone else’s: concrete block walls, tiny closet, and a window with a view of the dumpsters.

But college seems to have changed in the three decades few short years since I first matriculated.

After visiting two of my son’s final choices last week, college is looking a bit more like that vacation I never find time to take.

The cafeterias serve meals that make my inner Rachel Ray hang her head in shame.

Dishes like Pad Thai Noodles w/ Sweet Chili Sauce, Roasted Pork Loin w/ Tapanade, Curry Chicken with Spicy Dahl, Portobello Mushroom Fajitas, Sushi, Rotisserie Chicken, and Spinach Feta Pizza.

I thought Dahl was an author. Apparently, he’s also a soup.

Food like this will most certainly not make my son wistful of those meals just like mom used to make.

And places to eat on campus? They’re everywhere, and something is always open.

Which takes some of the thrill out of the whole dining experience; that tiny possibility that they will lock the doors before you get there and you’ll go hungry for four hours.

And the dorms that my son will live in if he chooses one particular campus? They have elevators and windows with a view of the ocean.

The Pacific Ocean, people.

I don’t even reserve ocean views on vacation, and I’m paying for him to have one every day?

They have cable TV, wireless Internet (I had a typewriter), shuttle bus service (I had a bike), swimming pools, rock climbing walls, coffee shops, and a Round Table Pizza/Subway/Burger King on campus.

I am seriously considering a Master’s Degree.

Class of 2011 – A Front for the Mob

Senior year of high school. What many students would describe as the pinnacle of their school years, the coup de gras, the year to rule the school.

As the parent of a senior, I will hereafter refer to it as the Year of Extortion or The Year We Almost Ran Out of Checks.

For years we have written checks for PTA memberships, class supply donations, field trips, yearbooks, and school pictures. I’ve always been happy to donate to the schools, support my child’s education, and have usually been happy to buy the school pictures.

At least during the years when we all remember that it’s picture day and nobody wears their Dr. Pepper or “Save Ferris” t-shirt.

But this senior year ride is a whole different animal. Totally.

It started late summer with Senior Pictures, what my husband fondly referred to as “the day they dressed my son like a waiter”. There are a number of pricey packages with complicated sizing and options, none of which actually correspond to what you really need. You can also bring several different outfits to the portrait session, which compounds the number of pictures you will then have to choose from.

We nipped this one in the bud; picked one best waiter tuxedo shot, ordered some for close relatives, and called it good.

Then there are the school fees.

My son is currently living in the Science Hall at school, since 3 of his 4 classes are there. He’s also knee-deep in an independent research project in Biotechnology. I could try and explain it, but either my head would burst or I might have to kill you. So, the lab fees and class supply donations for our family this term have multiplied by three.

Which was probably worth it, since he may be spending more time with Mrs. L and Mrs. T than he is with his own family.

In rapid succession, we received flyers and permission slips for Senior Disneyland Trip, Panoramic Picture, Safe & Sober Grad Night, yearbook, and Senior Yearbook Messages (full or half page).

Just when we thought it was over enter Jostens: purveyor of all things Senior. A full-color catalogue with happy seniors, proud parents, and a whole lot of stuff.

Class rings, cap & gown, special tassels, announcements, thank-you cards, diploma frames, memory books, senior necklaces, pins, sweatpants, t-shirts, shorts, hoodies, key chains, and my personal favorite the Status Cards (like business cards for kids).

Luckily for us, my son thinks most of this stuff is silly. Like sweatpants that say “Senior 2011” down the leg, or a 2011 charm with rhinestones to hang from your tassel.

Whew.

But November is also college applications month, and most schools have a November 30th deadline for applications to be submitted. With fees.

So by the time you’ve paid for the SAT 1 & 2, the ACT, AP exams, score reports, and application fees you start wondering if the bank will be calling to question the unusual activity levels on your credit card.

And you start hoping that this all pays off, and one day he’s able to support you in the lifestyle which you’ve yearned for since he was born.

Until you remember there’s another child waiting in the wings. A girl child, who thinks everything in that Jostens catalogue is cute and fun.

I think I had better order another checkbook.