This month has been a whirlwind of graduation activities. There have been senior dinners and rehearsals, final exams, banquets, awards and presentations, photos, slide shows, meetings, parties, a late night sleepover after graduation and the cap and gown Sunday service.
We started the month with Rachel’s college graduation (She’s got a job! Woop!) and ended with Seth’s high school graduation.
Seth is our fourth child we have graduated, the true middle child of seven. You would think it gets easier, this releasing kids from home.
But this entire month has tugged at my heart: picking photos for the senior slideshow and going back through all the moments that have been his life and mine for the last 18 years; searching for treasures in his baby box and on his bookshelves to display on the senior table; pulling the black robe and mortar board his brothers wore from the back of the closet.
I’m not just nostalgic over my own boy. The past few months have been a series of lasts for his whole group of senior friends.
As I watch them standing for pictures together, lanky arms across each other’s shoulders, with grins as wide as their dreams, I breathe wistful, silent sighs.
“This is ending. It took us 18 full summers to get here. And it will never be again. Even when you come home from your colleges, and you get together, it won’t be this — this shared, mischievous, carefree, continued adventure that has been childhood.”
These kids are stepping from our lives to their own.
Of course, Seth will always be very much in my life. But his life is about to grow way beyond mine.
I’ve been the hub of the wheel. The calendaring, the meals, the money handed out for gas and school books and lunch on the choir trip has all required me.
In a few weeks, we’ll pack up boxes with his things and move him to a new school and a new town. I’ll get phone calls and texts, but no more “I need my uniform by tomorrow, Mom” or “I’ll be home late, Mom.”
Being a mom has been the pinnacle of what I’ve wanted in this life. Life hasn’t been fancy and that is fine by me. Who needs fancy when life is rich with babies, afternoons at the park, conversations and cutting up in a few different minivans, basketball games and ballet recitals, and listening to the back door open and close a hundred times on a summer day?
This entire month, I have wished I could push pause and just stay right here. Release is so hard, no matter how right.
As I release this fourth child, it feels like a strong wind has taken hold of my kite and I’m watching its string unwind quickly through my grasp.
I’m watching it go further and further out and I already miss it.
We do not know the true value of our moments until they have undergone the test of memory. Like the images the photographer plunges into a golden bath, our sentiments take on color; and only then, after that recoil and that trans-figuration, do we understand their real meaning and enjoy them in all their tranquil splendor. ~ Georges Duhamel
But I did know their value.
I have always known — even on the hardest days and in my most impatient moments. I have treasured the little hand slipped into mine, a grocery cart full of tow-headed preschoolers, grass worn bare from summers of touch football.
Through the tired and late nights and loads of laundry, I loved those moments and I knew they were fleeting.
In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed small green oranges forming on our orange trees.
Before there was any fruit, the trees were covered in buds that opened in early spring to a profusion of small white flowers.
Orange blossoms have an undeniable sweet scent. I remember driving through Florida’s rolling hills of orange groves as a child when the orange blossom fragrance was so strong it came right through our car windows.
And yet, as heady as that scent is, no farmer would be content with a grove of orange blossoms. His labor is meant to produce fruit.
These last 18 years? They have been good.
But they have been bud and blossom. How I have loved the sweet beauty of this season and boy is it hard to release.
But there is great fruit. And though different from the beauty of bud and blossom, it is good. Deeply satisfying.
For now, the black robe is hung back up in my closet and the mortar board tucked onto a shelf. They’ll be needed again for another brother in two years.