Life is funny sometimes, isn’t it?
On the day I’m finalizing this column, I realize it’s May 28 – the day I graduated from A.C. Flora High School in Columbia, back in 1975.
As I mentioned earlier, my 40th year reunion will occur just 10 days after our son Chandler graduates from Hilton Head Island High School on June 3.
The irony of this 40-year time travel experience is that so much of it is the same. There will be caps and gowns and tassels. “Pomp and Circumstance” as graduates march in. Moms still cry openly and dads still bite the inside of their cheeks, starting almost immediately upon spotting their offspring in the crowd.
The smartest kid in the class will speak, and the principal, and a few others. All will share reflections of the past, wisdom for the present and advice for the future.
The graduates will flip their tassels to the other side, toss their caps in the air, and walk out the door in great huddles, never again to see everyone in one place.
Now, as back then, the parents experience mixed emotions. I’m fairly certain my own mother was thankful I had completed that stepping stone to adulthood, at the same time she resisted thoughts of my leaving home someday soon.
Now, as then, we know we have done our best in bringing them up. We have raised them to be the people they are now – the intelligent, passionate, eager, capable, curious people we and their teachers taught them to be.
Now we must let them fly, to discover who they are, to figure out what they want to pursue, to find their way.
But June 3 will be hard for me, because my senior is my baby, the younger of our two sons. We have grown very close over the past few years.
Our Sunday coffee day has become my favorite part of the week. I wonder how long he will hang around and share that with me.
Whatever he chooses, Chandler will be fine. He is strong. He is smart. He is compassionate, thoughtful and kind. He looks out for little kids, old people and animals. He can be stubborn as a rock, but is open to discussion. He hates it when I “freak out,” yet he responds in a calm, steady tone.
Just like virtually all of his peers, Chandler is a child of the Internet. Quite literally, the world is at his fingertips. And he wants to see it in person and photograph it. He has big plans – not for college, but for a secondary education in global cultures.
He wants to start in New Zealand for a couple of months, just him and his bicycle and his camera. (Mom would prefer, of course, that he find a suitable travel companion. Any takers?) It’s his dream, and I want him to go for it.
If I had been chosen to speak at his graduation ceremony – the one he first said he wanted to skip – I would offer just a bit of advice for Chandler and his classmates. This could be the shortest graduation speech ever: Live boldly. Don’t settle. Do good. Be kind. Be honest, with others and with yourself. Embrace adventure. Believe in people, including yourself. Wear sunscreen. Call your mom.
Congratulations, Class of 2015. There’s a big world out there and it’s yours. Take it by storm.
P.S. to Chandler: Your dad and I are so incredibly proud of you and the young man you have become. Wherever in the world you go, do me a favor and find a Starbucks every Sunday and let’s continue to have coffee together.