Today’s the day. Abby and Chandler’s college graduation in the stadium in Honolulu.
The cheering and being the Too Loud Mommy one more time as they walk across the stage.
The chaos of trying to find them afterward and lei them with the flowers I sent Greg to buy in Chinatown this morning.
The big party on the lanai in Abby’s building with all their friends, thrown with Audrey’s family — Abby’s bestie from kindergarten through their senior year of college — seventeen years in a row of school together, seeing each other through triumph and trauma.
The birthday cake we’ll sneak into the party to surprise my mom, Abby’s nana, on this, her 72nd birthday even though she said she didn’t want the day to be about her.
Today’s the day, but none of that will be our reality.
Today’s the day, but we didn’t get on the plane on Wednesday.
Today’s the day, but we didn’t stay up late last night decorating Abby’s mortarboard.
Today’s the day, but I didn’t get to wreath Abby’s head with flowers. I Venmoed her, instead, so she could make the run to Chinatown herself to buy the flowers to go with her quarantine-mates to take the photos to commemorate this momentous occasion, with its non-event.
Today’s the day, and I’m sitting in the sun, but in Oregon, not Hawaii.
Today’s the day, but I didn’t have to pull my kids out of school for their sister and brother-in-law’s graduation because they’re not in school anymore and we didn’t get to go.
Today’s the day, and I’m sad, but I’m not just sad.
Today’s the day, and I’m disappointed, but I’m not just bummed.
Today’s the day, and I’m still shell-shocked that this is the way college ends for them, but I’m not just stuck in disbelief.
I’m also proud.
And filled with abiding respect for these adult humans.
Can I be truthy here for a sec? And tell you things we don’t usually talk about on Graduation Day? Yes, I think I can, Diary. That’s what you’re for.
College wasn’t easy for my kid. She had to work hard for every grade in every class — and every semester, from the mid-point to the end, was filled with a relentless text stream from my girl to her mommy saying “I’m probs gonna fail” and “no, for real.” Eight semesters in a row of frantic fear of falling behind. Eight semesters in a row of my kid wondering the things all humans wonder — am I doing enough? Am *I* enough? What if my best doesn’t make the cut? What if I can’t give every second “my best” because I also need rest? How will you see me if I fail? Who am I if I can’t keep up?
And every semester, I told her I loved her. Every semester, I told her to a) work hard, b) communicate her fears to her professors (communicate, communicate, communicate), and c) if she did fail, she’s still OK, it’s OK, and we’ll handle it together. And every semester, she shot her shot.
She feared failure — was convinced she’d fall — and she kept working anyway.
And she did that when the odds were stacked against her.
She kept working through extreme criticism of who she is and what she believes and unwaveringly chose to be her authentic self instead of the easier path of acquiescing to gain approval.
She kept working through the grief of losing a friend to a sudden heart attack on the basketball court.
She kept working when we thought North Korea had launched a missile at Hawaii and she had to take cover in the stairwell and, even though we learned later it was a false alarm, they spent the rest of college marking spots for refuge in case the threat was realized.
She kept working during a global pandemic, quarantining with her people for months, finishing a semester and packing up a life to move home.
She fought for her friendships and she fought for her husband and she put love first again and again.
She decided who she is and remained steadfastly committed to that inner guide.
She is fierce.
She is smart.
She is determined.
She chose a life partner who is kind and funny and driven.
And I know graduation is about celebrating academic success — and, believe me, after all those texts, I am FOR SURE celebrating that — but I’m celebrating Bigger Things today, too.
I’m sad I’m not with her today to say Well Done to her beautiful face.
But I’m insanely proud of who my child has become and is becoming.
I’m far more proud of her character, her tenacity, and her choices than I am of her grades, even though she got good ones.
I’m proud of the humans she’s chosen to surround herself with.
And I’m proud of the steadiness and resolve with which she’s met the myriad disappointments the pandemic has dealt.
The future is uncertain for these brave humans.
But the future is uncertain for all of us all the time — it’s just more obvious right now.
I am convinced, though, that these people are ready to take on whatever comes.
Congratulations to my babies. ❤️
P.S. I’m so, SO sad I didn’t get to do Graduation Twinsie Pics with Abby.
I would’ve ROCKED this white bikini.
But, honestly, since no one can tell us apart in bikini pics, it probs would’ve been redundant to do a twinsie photo shoot, anyway.
Graduation Photo Image Credits: Emma Gohman (center)
THANK YOU, EMMA! ♥️