I had been through 2 previous high school graduations with my daughters. They were a big deal. A very big deal, replete with out of town guests and big family dinners and weeks-of-planning-required parties and extensive photo sessions and heart-felt gifts to commemorate the occasion. I remember being absolutely exhausted by the end of the celebration weekend, both physically and emotionally, as I watched my little girls transition to that next phase in their lives. Seeing them in their caps and gowns adorned with honor cords as they walked across the big stage to receive their diplomas was bittersweet – I made very good use of the Kleenex wadded up in my hands.
Last Friday was my son’s high school graduation, held in the same university auditorium where my daughters’ had been only a few years ago.
My oldest daughter flew in from Los Angeles on Thursday morning. My parents drove in from Shreveport that same evening. My middle daughter (who now lives in Atlanta) joined us for a home-cooked family dinner at our house, and it was the first time in a quite a while that I had all three of my children at home and around the table together.
The next morning was The Big Event.
For my daughters, Graduation Day meant a morning of nail appointments and primping. For my son, though, it meant squeezing in a hitting session then running home for a quick shower before putting on the required “uniform” of the day: black pants, white dress shirt and solid tie, and black shoes and socks. Oh, and when it turned out his black shoes no longer fit, it also meant an unplanned trip to Kohl’s with his big sister to pick up a new pair on the way to our pre-ceremony family brunch. Before leaving the house, he also had to pack up his tennis gear and cooler because doesn’t everyone play in a tournament that starts the same day as their high school graduation?
We had a lovely brunch at a cute little bakery halfway between our house and Kennesaw State University (KSU). Afterward, we took
lots of pictures in front of the fountain on the Marietta Square. My son was a very good sport. Photos are not his thing, but he knew my emotional state and figured it was easier to go along with whatever his mom wanted that day. Smart kid.
The ceremony started promptly at 2:30 and was slated to run 2 hours. We figured that would give us plenty of time to get to the tournament site (about an hour away) for my son’s first match at 6:30. About halfway through the speakers part of the event, my son sent a group text message to my husband and me and my daughters. While it’s not appropriate to include the details of the group text (really, I promise, it’s not!), let me just tell you that we were all laughing hysterically at my son’s running commentary on the content of the speeches and the replies generated by his sisters. If I thought I was going to cry through the graduation, boy, was I mistaken! These kids (and my husband) had me cracking up!
Finally, the diploma presentation started.
My son’s class had over 600 graduates, but this process actually went pretty quickly. As my son prepared to walk across the stage and shake his principal’s hand then receive his diploma, I felt a slight clutch in my chest and a tightening in my tear ducts. My last baby to graduate high school. It’s one of those Big Moments in a parent’s life. But I held it together and smiled bravely as I heard his name called.
As soon as the ceremony ended, my husband snuck out of the auditorium to get the car so he could drive us to the tournament. My dad and I waited for my son right outside the exit while my mom and daughters drove another car back to our house. My son’s fellow graduates were all hugging and taking pictures with their families and each other. My son, on the other hand, was peeling off his graduation robe as he exited the building, making a beeline for my dad and me so we could get to the car and beat the crowds off the campus. I asked him if he wanted to take some quick photos with his friends. I should’ve known better. The priority at that moment was getting to the tournament site.
We arrived with time to spare. My son played – and won – his first match while my husband, my dad, and I cheered him on. Afterward, my mom and daughter met us at a local sushi bar for a late dinner then we headed home to get some much-needed sleep before the next morning’s matches.
For my son, getting to play in front of his grandparents and sisters was a rare treat. Thankfully, the weather was gorgeous, so everyone was in a cheerful mood as my son made it through his doubles and 2 singles matches. That night was another family
dinner at home and an early bedtime before the final day’s matches. Once again, my son had a good cheering section as he and his partner fell just short in the doubles final then won the singles final. Not a bad way to end the weekend!
So, while I had prepared myself to be all weepy and melancholy as my last child finished school, it turned out to be just another tournament weekend that happened to coincide with this little thing called High School Graduation. There was no time for tears. I had to jump right from Parent of Graduate into Tennis Parent mode with very little time to think about what that entailed. After all, I have lived through both roles many times before though never in such quick succession. I think I handled it okay. Or maybe it just hasn’t really hit me yet. Maybe I’m saving my tears for his last junior tennis match – that may be the more significant milestone in my son’s life given that school was never his favorite activity. If you see me crying in Mobile next month, you’ll know why.