And now she graduates: But not to worry, she's ready to face the future; I'm not sure about her parents
Share with others:
When your only child graduates from college, you do, too.
For her, it means no more all-nighters cramming in the library or partying in the quad, no more easy proximity to the close friends from around the country who gathered at school for four years and now have peeled off in their own directions, or to the professors who guided her through the academic shoals.
For you, the parent, graduation means no more tuition bills in the mail, or wondering how much actual studying is taking place, or sweating out grade point averages in sympathy or wondering how on earth these seniors can look for jobs while hip-deep in final papers and exams.
She well may return to her alma mater for reunions, but it's doubtful that we will. Kenyon is her school, not ours. But that didn't stop us from giving it several interchangeable names over the years.
Brigadoon, for example, because the campus is so idyllic it might have magically appeared from the mists of the Scottish Highlands for one day every hundred years. On our visits, I half expected to see Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse come dancing through the heather on the hill.
And Shangri La, for its resemblance to an isolated utopia where time has slowed to a crawl, and for its location atop the aforementioned hill that, while hardly Himalayan in scale, is steep enough by Ohio standards.
And Hogwarts, because its Gothic stone buildings bring to mind the castle-school attended by Harry Potter and his magical friends. The Class of 2012 grew up devouring the saga of the Boy Who Lived, even playing an earthbound version of quiddich, the airborne sport invented by Potter author J.K. Rowling. The game requires zooming through the air on broomsticks, but this generation somehow makes it work on terra firma. I wouldn't be surprised if one of them invents a personal flying device so they can play it for real.
Her alma mater is the opposite of the schools her parents attended, both huge public universities with giant lecture halls and classes taught by graduate students.
Those schools served us well and would have done the same for her. But having grown up in an urban school district rather than the suburbs or small town of our experience, she wanted to try something completely different.
"Are you sure?" we said more than once. "Remember, you're used to being in the thick of things. Won't you get bored in a corn field?"
"I don't want the distractions," she said. "Just for once, I want the bubble."
It was a good match, but over time the bubble can be confining as well as protective. By the end of four years most seniors, including ours, are ready to burst out of it and move on.
She'll miss certain things, I'm sure. But I'm surprised to realize that I will, too. Not the bills, of course, but the cadence that connected me to the school-year-as-life-cycle that I've never quite gotten over.
No matter how the years pile up separating me from my own school experiences, I still feel the exhilaration of summer vacation/liberation as Memorial Day approaches.
And, three months later, the melancholy twinge as swimming pools, lake-side concession stands and canoe liveries close for the season.
And then, like a tonic, a frisson of all things possible as the new school year begins. Which brings its own set of demarcations marked by holiday breaks, until it all begins again.
It's no wonder parents far removed from their own school years relive them through their children. Those rhythms, the ways of measuring time ingrained from the early years, remain long after the events fade, a little like phantom feeling from a missing limb.
I wasn't thinking about any of this as our daughter approached graduation. My focus was on the event itself, then on moving her out of her campus apartment for the last time. But I'm thinking about it now, as she figures out what comes next.
Some of her friends are going on to internships, jobs or grad school, but many are doing the same thing she is -- looking around at the possibilities domestic and international for that first post-graduate foothold, the initial step that will lead to the next.
It is, in fact, the same thing I did all those years ago, when the cost of living was so much lower and the job market more forgiving. Except that international options never entered my mind. Today's college grads have a much firmer grasp of the global options and, especially if they've studied abroad, of where and how they might fit into them.
From what I've seen of the Class of 2012, they're smart, imaginative, caring and ready to make their marks. Many are fearless, as well, eager to wade into intractable problems and find ways to make them better.
The world needs their energy and commitment. It may take a little while -- timing, luck and serendipity cannot be discounted -- but eventually they'll find their way. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do.
First Published June 3, 2012 12:00 am