June means graduations. Pomp and circumstance. It means wrist corsages, and lockets containing photos - a moment captured. As that glorious month creeps up - tempting us to remember the joy of high summer when evening light hangs streaked and long in the sky - we know that ends signal new beginnings.
Graduations are a case in point.
My son is graduating and I have been thinking of Walt Whitman.
Oh Me! Oh Life! … [T]hat you are here – that life exists and identity, that the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
When I reflect on the years I spent down on the floor with toddlers, I am often reminded of the truism which reminds that the days are long but the years are short. Graduations point us to the future while tempting us to reflect on the past.
Graduations are ceremony. We launch our children into the world hoping that they will live wisely and well. Knowing that they will make mistakes and hoping that these mistakes are ones from which they can cull knowledge.
Time is such an amorphous and a slippery thing. I remember all those long winter days when children woke at the crack of dawn ready to play all day and I wondered how ever we would think of enough stuff to do. We always did. At the end of that of that day, I’d gaze on the rounded and soft cheek of a toddler asleep, having loved the day - and earned the rest.
As we watch graduates dress in jackets and ties and white linen dresses, we wonder where the time went. They line up waiting to be photographed and from a distance I can see my son who is laughing at something someone said. His classmates are wearing necklaces and lockets. I take joy in his comfort in the world. I know fully that he has earned this moment. Still, there is necessary melancholy for me – his mother.
I want him to allow me these sidelong glances – these windows into his world. I can’t help but to recall the triumph of his early milestones. How together we went up and down the stairs for hours one day. How he learned to take those shaky first steps.
How once upon a time I took any number of pictures of him – laughing, crying, playing. I think of Simon & Garfunkel who sang, “[P]reserve your memories, their all that’s left you.” Although somber, I find joy in that pretty song. Memories scaffold us.
As I finger the locket hanging on my neck now, I take happiness in the notion that lockets scaffold memories. When I try to carry a memory with me in a locket it is hard to choose which one to preserve. (Sometimes I change it up!)
Integrating this melancholy is the work of growth and of change. As we see these once-babies about to launch into the world, it is impossible to discount that bond that grew up. We know too that the dynamic bond will continue. That it is flexible and strong. We want simultaneously to roll back the years, and also to have the privilege of seeing what comes next.
To watch as their verse is revealed.
The days were long and the years were short. And this was and is our greatest honor. Happy Graduation to the graduates - and to their mothers. Celebrate the moments and celebrate the bonds. Go ahead and preserve a memory in a locket – because this honors the past even while parading triumphantly into the future.