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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30 Responses to “still here”

  1. 1
    Angie @ Bigbearswife — October 20, 2011 @ 8:29 pm

    Happy Late Birthday hun!

    Thinking of you, your dad and family!

  2. 2
    Kristina @ spabettie — October 20, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

    oh, I am sorry! sending healing thoughts to your dad, comfort to all of you!

  3. 3
    kamran siddiqi — October 20, 2011 @ 9:00 pm

    Happy belated birthday, my friend! Sending you a huge hug and lots of positive energy and prayers!

  4. 4
    Wenderly — October 20, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

    Sending you hugs, love & light to lift you and hold you tight.

  5. 5
    Melissa — October 20, 2011 @ 9:21 pm

    Just over a year ago I was in the same place you are now with my dad. Seeing your photo of an ICU room just made my entire chest tighten up. I’m sending you every positive thought I can muster up for your dad, you and your family.

  6. 6
    Georgie — October 20, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

    Sending you the sweetest wishes ever!

  7. 7
    Anneliesz — October 20, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

    Oh Merry. I’m sorry your dad is in the hospital but glad that you are able to spend the time with him. Sending you a big hug.

  8. 8
    Sam — October 20, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

    I’m seconding everyone on sending healing thoughts. And an extra big hug for you.

  9. 9
    DessertForTwo — October 20, 2011 @ 11:43 pm

    We are all thinking about ya, praying for ya, and sending lots of good wishes y’all’s way.

    Much love,

  10. 10
    SMITH BITES — October 20, 2011 @ 11:44 pm

    Am grateful you have a good support system MJ including a wonderful husband; sad that you’re going thru this but again grateful you also have time to spend w/your dad. (((hugs)))

  11. 11
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — October 21, 2011 @ 6:55 am

    Merry Jennifer. YOU are pretty darned amazing too. Sending healing vibes to your dad and hugs and love to everyone else. Especially you.

  12. 12
    Jamie — October 21, 2011 @ 7:06 am

    I know how it hurts. Thinking of you. xo

  13. 13
    Judith Klinger — October 21, 2011 @ 8:03 am

    Hang in there. What choice do we have?
    Sending you a hug full of warmth and strength. If I had a magic wand I’d fix the fridge too.

  14. 14
    Chris @ The Peche — October 21, 2011 @ 8:40 am

    Thinking of you, friend. We’re not so far that we can’t drive to help if you need us.

  15. 15
    Kim Foster — October 21, 2011 @ 9:13 am

    Oh babe, this post is so full of love.

    Thinking of you, MJ. Sending your dad special prayers. xo

  16. 16
    Erin @ A Nesting Experience — October 21, 2011 @ 10:20 am

    Take care and happy birthday.

  17. 17
    Michelle Ledesma — October 21, 2011 @ 10:35 am

    During this time of distraction, from the bottom of my heart, I am sending up prayers for continued strength and grace for both you and your rock of a husband . I won’t worry about you, because that’s not what you you want. But I’m thinking of you, and your family. Sending hugs. Do take care.

  18. 18
    Colleen — October 21, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    I am so sorry about what you are going through. My heart goes out to you. I wish you strength.

  19. 19
    Di — October 21, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

    I am sorry to hear about your father; sadly there are things in life we can’t go around….we just have to go through them. You don’t know me, but I have become a big fan over the last few months and I feel like I know you. My god daughter recommended your site (she’s a dr. in Fl and a Gator). Her grandmother told me when my own parents were ill (25 years ago) … “This is your time, honey.” We all have a time in our lives when we face our parents fragility. This is your time, Jennifer. I am sure you are heart-broken. I wish you, your husband and your family strength and peace.

  20. 20
    LisaK — October 21, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

    Happy Late Birthday! I’m so sorry your dad is sick. Sending hugs and healing thoughts.

  21. 21
    themacaronqueen — October 21, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

    I’m sorry about your loss :(. Be strong and hope everything will get better. I hope a macaron can put a smile back in your face.

  22. 22
    delia — October 21, 2011 @ 10:13 pm

    Sorry to hear about what’s been going on. Thinking of you.

  23. 23
    Macaroni Mama — October 21, 2011 @ 10:50 pm

    The Merry Gourmet is a WONDERFUL daughter, mother, friend, and doctor. I appreciate all the love you send to her. P.S. I’m a terrible cook. I don’t even want to learn how.

  24. 24
    SweetSugarBelle — October 21, 2011 @ 11:30 pm

    I am so sorry you’re going through this, MJ. Wishing heath and healing to your dad, peace for you, and smooth sailing for your hubby and kids. Sending brighter skies and blue pastures your way.

  25. 25
    Cheryl Arkison — October 22, 2011 @ 10:12 am

    Oh, it was your birthday too? Happy Birthday, as much as you can find the happiness.

    This is a very tough road you are on right now, but we’re here for you.

    (And I took photos in the hospital too. I don’t know why and I have a hard time if I run across them now, but I was compelled to at the time.)

  26. 26
    Aggie — October 22, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

    This makes me want to cry, MJ. I know how much you love your daddy and I am praying for a speedy recovery.

    hang in there. You can celebrate your bday big time when this nightmare is over and your daddy is home safe & sound.

  27. 27
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — October 23, 2011 @ 9:09 am

    You have been through so much darling! I am glad that you’re father is no longer being intubated. Sending you sweet thoughts, my dear!

  28. 28
    Lana — October 23, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

    Happy belated birthday! I am at a similar place in life, taking care of my ailing mother, while my husband is holding our family fort. You are a strong and loving person, and your dad is lucky to have you near him when he needs you. My thoughts are with you and your family. Hugs!

  29. 29
    Paula — October 25, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

    I’m sorry that I’m late to reading this and hoping that by now your poor Dad is showing some improvement. What an awful thing to have happened to him. It certainly wasn’t the way I’m sure you had planned to spend your birthday but the important thing is your family is together to help your Dad heal.
    Keeping you all in my prayers MJ.

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