In ordinary lives, at intervals we all attend certain ceremonial events. In our life we have just witnessed the high school graduation of a beloved granddaughter, our youngest grandchild. Usually I am determined not to weep, and usually I do anyway, usually when they start to play the processional. I hear ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ and I weep. Well, not this time, I told myself, and I didn’t. At first we were awed by the beginning of the ceremony, when the principal explained that this high school, a relatively ordinary school in a relatively ordinary area, had a very diverse population and students began marching in with flags representing the countries they have heritage from. There were twenty-two flags; this was wonderful to us, just what we would have wished for. What better way to emphasize to young people that there is a world out there than to experience this diversity in their own school?
I didn’t weep at all until I watched our beautiful granddaughter sitting among her classmates, and I looked at that beloved profile and memories came flooding back of all the times from when she was an infant that we have seen her looking intently around herself, thinking her thoughts. Just the curve of that face and all the love we feel for her washed over us. I thought of childhood illnesses and the determination of our daughter to be there for her children no matter what. I thought of a single mother who has worked two jobs to make sure this child was able to pursue the music studies she loves, and to provide everything she needs, if not everything she wants. And I thought of all the work and sacrifices of the families around us there to support their children. And I wept for the joy of it all.
They call these ceremonies a ‘commencement’, because it represents, really, not an ending but a beginning, the beginning of places in the adult world for these young people. They are no longer children, they are young adults. They are not just their own futures, they are ours.