Some mothers get soo sentimental about the first day of school. There is no shortage of pictures and posts about babies growing up too fast and 'how did we get here' and a few confessionals that include how free a mother feels when her youngest is in school for a full day.
I'm not going to pretend that I don't experience a handful of those emotions. But you know what really gets me? The last day of school. As in a son's last day of high school. Wham! Or my daughter's last day of kindergarten. Double-wham!
I said 'I love you' and before she jumped out of the van, she turned and smiled at me with the slant of her head and the squint of her eyes that said, in a sweet way, "Aw, mom!" I watched her walk fast and focused through the criss-cross of playing children. She knew exactly where she was going. She didn't look back, she didn't look lost. Gone were the 'What-am-I-in-for?' expressions of Day One. See? It's the last day. She's doing exactly what she is supposed to do--learning and gaining confidence and preparing for what comes next. I sit in the van with parents behind me waiting for me to move and I wonder, am I?
And then there is the son. If I can feel the swell of motherly love from witnessing a ten month transformation of my kindergartner, then what is it I'm feeling as I watch my son don his cap and gown? I try to reconcile it with pictures in my mind of the superman PJs he loved to wear as a two-year-old, so much that he wanted them as his Halloween costume. This cap and gown is no costume. It's the authentic rite-of-passage uniform he gets to wear, declaring to the universe, what? That's he's grown up, that's what. And that's what gets me in the back of my throat, in the pit of my stomach, and what sends tears cascading down my cheeks, as he walks, accepts the diploma and the passport to the rest of his life. Swells of love combine with bursts of pride and form waves that pick up pangs of hope. I wonder if anything I've done in the last 18+ years will make any bit of difference for good in his life.
The graduates march, and like hands on the clock, there is no turning them back. Forward, always forward.
I feel marvel and wonder, some sadness for mistakes every mother can't help making, mostly gratitude for all the sweet memories swirling.
If it's freedom a mother feels when she sends that young one off to school and returns home to her life, and whatever fills it, what does she feel when that child graduates from school. More freedom?
Not exactly, for me. By the time I take my seat in the bleachers, I realize--I'm the mother. He may leave and live his future any where and any way he wants, but I will always be his mother and I won't be 'freed' from that. That's what gets me. And I'm glad. Happy glad. Wait, I think it's joy. Yes, pinewood derby, first church dance, last piano recital, one-hundredth silly pun, --and one unsolicited 'thanks, mom' hug in his cap and gown, and I feel it. Joy.