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Happy Graduation to you!

Happy Graduation to you!

A row of backpacks lines one wall, neatly hanging on their designated hooks. Shoes are tucked into their allotted slots; name tags tell everyone where their things belong.

Tiny chairs are arranged in rows. Streamers crisscross the ceiling, balloons hang from every available space. A small table holds homemade cupcakes, apple and orange slices and plastic cups filled with juice.

We file into the room quietly, not really sure what to expect. I turn my head and there you are, my baby, standing shoulder to shoulder with your classmates, a blue paper hat propped crookedly on your head. You see me and smile, a proud grin stretching across your entire face.

It is graduation day.

There are tears. The teacher gets choked up less than two sentences into her opening remarks and I feel my own tears join her. I am not one to allow anyone to cry alone.

There is a little slide show, diplomas and gifts are presented and 30 adults do the delicate dance of moving in to take pictures and then back out of the way for the next child. My father-in-law takes his position as the family photographer so I don’t have to bother. I know he will take care of the pictures. There will be perfect shots to send to relatives, post for friends, print for the photo albums. I will thank him later for that, for taking care of that so I don’t have to.  For allowing me to just sit and watch.

Watch you wait anxiously for your turn to be called, the smile on your face when it finally is. Watch you carefully walk across the classroom and take your diploma, laughing as your teacher shakes your hand and turn to smile, pose for all of the pictures that will allow us to remember the day.

Not that I can imagine ever forgetting this day; these images stamped on my mind.

After my in-laws and my husband leave, I stay, mingling a little with the other parents, nibbling on a cupcake and sipping my juice.

My son pulls me by the hand around the classroom, “Mama, look at our caterpillar, he’s in a cocoon now!”

“Look, this is my cubby and these are my shoes”

“Look, this is a picture of my friend Kevin and the volcano we built. It was my favourite thing this year!”

Look, look, look.

I know Buddy, I’m looking at it all. And the whole time I’m looking at you and trying to remember you, in this moment, forever.

Because everyone else in the room looks at you and sees you, as you are now.  But I look at you and see six years of memories all rolled up in your little body.  I see months of late nights and painfully early mornings, scraped knees and bruised feelings, bedtime stories and morning kisses.  I see a terrifying trip to the emergency room, a hundred rocks thrown into the lake, a dozen early mornings at the ice rink, your face lit up in excitement when it’s finally time to step on the ice.  I see melted popsicle dripping off your chin, sand in your shoes, bubbles in the bathtub and rubbing your head as you fall asleep, your eye lashes fanning out on your impossibly soft cheeks.

I see it all.

And now I see you here, with a paper hat on your head, cupcake crumbs on your chin and one shoelace untied on your “fancy” shoes that you asked to wear especially for today.  You seem so incredibly grown up and yet so impossibly young, all in the same moment.  I can hardly breath, it’s all so much to take in.

Fancy shoes.

Fancy shoes.

But I steady myself.

This day is about beginnings, not endings.  It’s about the future, and although it inevitably makes me think of the past, I force myself not to get stuck there, as I so often do.  Instead I will focus on all that you’ve accomplished and yes, perhaps even all that we have accomplished, together, you and I.

It is the end of a chapter, but there’s still so much of the book yet to be written.

I can’t wait to read it.

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