a first graduation

a first graduation |the merry gourmet

We waited in front of the glass cafeteria doors with all of the other parents and grandparents, all of them well dressed, as if they were attending Sunday church services. Sam and I were not as well dressed, and I felt self-conscious. I had taken the day off work, as I always do on my kids’ last day of school, and I was dressed for a relaxed day around the house, in a t-shirt and cropped pants. I shifted uncomfortably in my sandals and checked the time on my phone.

The crowd was restless, small groupings of family members inching closer to the doors even though they would not open for another fifteen minutes, at 8 a.m. There were limited number of front row seats, and everyone wanted to claim them. Only the front rows would have unobstructed views of the stage. I took some deep breaths to calm myself, anticipating the rush that would come when the doors finally opened. There would be seat saving – not just one or two, but an entire row – and that always drives me crazy and makes me anxious.

The doors opened, right on time, and I managed to find us seats in the middle of the fourth row. Our seats were not ideal, but they were good enough. I was glad I’d listened to Sam when he suggested I bring the zoom lens. I wished I was a better photographer. I wished I’d worn a dress.

Our daughter was graduating from fifth grade.

The ceremony was short and sweet. Each fifth grade teacher stood at the podium and read his or her students’ names, one at a time. When each name was read, the student walked up and across the stage, shook hands with the principal, and received a rolled-up diploma, tied with a ribbon. The students sang two songs, there were some closing remarks, and within 45 minutes, it was all over.

I assumed it would be no big deal, and that’s one of the reasons I dressed so casually, I think. It was just fifth grade graduation. It wasn’t high school or college – or medical school – graduation. The ceremony was at 8:30 in the morning, so how momentous could this event be?

As I sat in that eclectic audience of proud parents, and as I heard each student’s name read aloud, I watched our daughter. She was one of the tallest in the fifth grade, along with a couple of other girls, and it was easy to find her in the crowd of students. I watched her walk toward the stage, and I knew she was happy. She was excited and proud of herself, and she was glowing.

a first graduation |the merry gourmet

I thought back on this fifth grade year. It was a challenging year for her, but maybe even more so for me. I have had to learn how to parent a pre-teen. I knew that puberty would be a difficult time, but I never expected how emotionally demanding – and exhausting – it would be. There have been so many instances I’ve wanted to write about, but I know that she now goes online and she may read what I have written, or she may find out what I’ve shared through a teacher, a friend, or a friend’s parent. Out of respect for her, I’ve turned more toward my journal than toward this blog. (And on a related note, I asked her permission before including the photo of her.)

Maddie name was called and she walked across the stage toward her principal and his outstretched hand. I stood up, camera raised, blocking the view of the parents behind me. She walked confidently, her head held high, her eyes bright with joy. I snapped photos until she was off the stage and the next name had been called. She beamed as she took her seat. I sat down and realized I’d been holding my breath.

And even though it was just a fifth grade graduation, I realized what a big deal it truly was. It was Maddie’s moment to shine and to be celebrated. It was the last day of elementary school, this first phase of her education. It was the last day that she would attend the same school as her little brother, at least until she is a senior in high school, and possibly even forever, if they choose to attend different high schools. It was a first graduation for her, hopefully the first of at least two more. This day marked a turning point for Maddie, a final ceremonial step (or plunge) into the middle school years.

She was just lovely that day. I am so proud to be the mother of such an amazing person – my bright, confident, stubborn, infuriating, generous, loving, and beautiful daughter.

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20 Responses to “the box on the dining room table”

  1. Renee - Kudos Kitchen — June 8, 2014 @ 8:06 pm

    Such a sweet story about your father. My heart goes out to you.
    This ice cream? Divine!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 9th, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

      Oh, thank you, Renee.

  2. MJ, this is a beautiful post. I can see how there’s comfort in having your dad “around’. I am sure he is smiling down at you all and I know that he will love Yellowstone XO

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 9th, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

      I think this Yellowstone trip will be great for all of us. It just feels right to take Dad with us. And thank you, Mardi.

  3. Gail — June 8, 2014 @ 10:06 pm

    You outdo yourself, every single time.
    And I go through more kleenex, every single time.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 9th, 2014 @ 6:47 pm

      I should post a warning label, right? (Thank you, Gail!)

  4. Kathryn — June 9, 2014 @ 4:28 am

    Such a beautiful and touching post.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 9th, 2014 @ 6:47 pm

      Thank you so much, Kathryn.

  5. Colleen — June 9, 2014 @ 11:14 am

    Such a beautiful post!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 9th, 2014 @ 6:47 pm

      Thank you, Colleen.

  6. jacquie — June 9, 2014 @ 12:34 pm

    beautiful post. after i have lost a significant being in my life, for some reason i always feel more settled when a piece of them come back home to me. I’m so glad your dad is going to Yellowstone with all of you. I’m sure he will let you know where he wants to rest. take care.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 9th, 2014 @ 6:48 pm

      I believe you’re right, Jacquie. I think I’ll know the place when I’m there. It will feel right.

  7. Jennifer Annan House — June 9, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

    Another wonderful post I think your posts about your dad help all of us who are grieving for someone. And, love the picture, and news of your upcoming Yellowstone trip. It will be a wonderful time for all of your family.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 9th, 2014 @ 6:48 pm

      Thank you so much, Jennifer.

  8. Christine — June 12, 2014 @ 10:16 am

    Thanks for this thoughtful post. I am excited for your family to have the opportunity to travel to our country’s oldest and greatest national park later this month. Be sure to visit the tourist sites such as Old Faithful and Morning Glory as well as some less-trammeled backcountry nooks. While working there with the Youth Conservation Corps for four summers, I felt continually astounded by the pristine solitude of the backcountry, despite the flooded overdevelopment of places in the front-country. Have fun!

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  10. Paula — June 17, 2014 @ 6:16 pm

    This one final road trip *with* your Dad will be fun, poignant and truly memorable…for all of you. Safe travels. Beautifully written post and I hope you write about your time, experiences at Yellowstone.

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  12. Janice @Kitchen Heals Soul — July 14, 2014 @ 4:28 pm

    I kinda stumbled on this post while browsing your blog. So my comment is coming in a little late. I can relate to the box that is there but that you can’t open, but that is such a comfort.

    I need to start by saying that my recent loss was totally not on the magnitude of losing a parent, not by any means. Still, I have the box containing what may be an urn of my cat’s ashes in it. I’ve had it on my nightstand next to my bed since March. I haven’t opened it. It’s just there. I can’t face the box, but I can’t let it go either. So, there it sits. I guess I was more dependent on that tiny little life than I realized. And because it’s been just me and her for the last 8 years (no boyfriend or anybody along the way), going through this was so very hard. It’s amazing how much a plain old cardboard box can contain.

    I am so sorry for your loss and from reading backwards through your posts to this one, I see that you took that trip with your Dad. There are no words that can make the loss of a loved one “better” but I do hope that you will find some comfort along the way.

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