During the weekend, I attended a graduation party for a co-worker’s sons — one finishing college and the other graduating from high school. Although I didn’t know the boys very well, I always enjoy going to these celebrations. The graduates and their friends are so full of promise and optimism — reflective about the stage of life just ending and brimming with excitement about the future that awaits.
As the mom of two littles, one 3 1/2 and one 9 months, high school graduation seems like one of those far off events that happens to other parents and other people’s kids. Teens who were just always teens and never went through the terrible twos and that threenager period.
Then I think back to the mid-1980s and that moment my elementary school-aged brain calculated that I would graduate from high school in 1995. That seemed like such a fantastical and impossible year to imagine, and now, it’s 21 years in the rear view mirror. (Not to mention how excited I was when I discovered that 1999 — like the Prince song — would be my likely college graduation year. Now that’s almost 20 years in the past.)
This piece I wrote about three years ago, when my oldest hadn’t yet turned 1, still reflects my mindset about graduations. They’re so far in the future for my babies, and yet, much closer than I might think.
They sprout each May, with the perennial regularity of spring flowers, on lush manicured lawns in our subdivision. Their familiar rectangular shape calls to mind political campaign signs or announcements that longtime residents are leaving the area and looking for new occupants to fill their homes – piquing the curiosity of neighbors wondering what lies ahead for their community.
These signs are spackled in the black and gold of the local high school, with names like Melanie, Kacie and Seth scrawled in magic marker in the empty white boxes that the top. Each year, the number at the bottom changes – Melanie, Kacie and Seth are members of the Class of 2013, while Nathan, Caitlin, Kelly and a host of others had the 2012 edition of the ubiquitous yard signs inviting you to congratulate the family on their child’s graduation and inquire about their futures.
As my husband and I push our 8-month-old in his stroller, I do the math in my head.
“So, we should get one of these signs in 2030 or 2031, correct?” I ask.
My husband grimaces. He’s also done the math. As a first-time father at age 40, he’ll be close to 60 by the time his son graduates from high school. If we have more children, as we hope, we could possess the 2036 or 2037 versions of the graduation announcement lawn signs.
“I’m never going to be able to retire,” my husband says. He walks faster, as if a quicker step will keep his heart healthy enough for at least 25 more years on the job.