Monday, August 16, 2010
Watching my first born child Stephanie graduate from college has left me longing to tell a story that began over 22 years ago. I find I am flooded with a sentimental passion I’ve found difficult to put into just a few words. My goal was to write a post about her graduation ceremony, yet there is a lifetime leading up to it and I’ve found it hard to only write about the actual ceremony.
First, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about her graduation announcements. We elected not to send the UC Davis ones out. Stephanie and I had talked earlier this year about her writing her own “announcement” to tell family and friends about her experience at college, including pictures. At this point, I think we’ll hold off and have her include her graduation trip in September to complete her entire college experience.
Next, I have a bone to pick with the OB/GYN who, when I was only 5 weeks pregnant with Stephanie told me I had a non-viable pregnancy and would need to immediately terminate my pregnancy. Having faith in God left me with no decision whatsoever. I would not consider terminating my pregnancy. I’ll spare you the details other than I’d like to send a faithless OB/GYN a picture of my beautiful, talented, vibrant, healthy college graduate! Non viable pregnancy? Faith is always must. In the words of the Rev. Dr. Randy Johnson just recently, faith requires waiting. Thank God we were patient and we waited. Stephanie has been a blessing and such a rare and special gift to our family from the moment she arrived safely into our arms.
UC Davis eventually won my daughter’s heart after agonizing and revisiting a number of universities she was choosing between. From the day Ken and I moved her into the dorms her freshman year, she knew she had made the right choice.
Did I? For the entirety of our children’s lives they were indoctrinated with the fact that they would go away to college. There wasn’t a choice; it would be the normal, next step after finishing high school. But when she chose UC Davis, over 8 hours away by car, I started to wonder what I had been thinking. I started to panic. I had to tell her that if Mommie threw herself in the street crying hysterically, begging her not to stay, to turn around and walk promptly away and have a blast; that Daddy would scrape up the mess of puddly Mommie Goo from the street and get me safely home.
As it turns out, lots of other Dads had similar plans for their puddles of Mommie Goo in Napa Valley to try to entice us into leaving our babies at the dorms. So off we drove, leaving Stephanie smiling from ear to ear and excited to begin her new adventure. It reminded me of Nursery School when she was 3. She just looked up from what she was coloring and said, “Bye, Bye Mommie.” No tears. Just “Bye.”
At a number of the wineries, we ran into lots of couples like us. Happy Dads and lots of puddly Mommie Goo crying over their wine. If you were crying and saw another one crying you asked if they’d just moved their child into college. That would get puddly Mom’s crying again and the Happy Dad’s laughing and saying to pour us more wine.
A startlingly quick four years later, watching Stephanie graduate, was the fulfillment of a dream for not only her, but for Ken and me too. We sat proud of ourselves, clutching hands, whispering to each other, “she did it…& …we did it!”
At the graduation ceremony, as Stephanie made her way forward and stepped up onto the podium to receive her diploma I started thinking about past steps in her life, and how there had been so many. I thought about how so many of her steps before were to Mommie and Daddy. Those cherished first baby steps, when she trusted us to catch her. And many more along the way were steps when we were there, right beside her, holding what I still love to call her “baby hands.”
Watching her take those excited steps up to the college podium was another joyous time for us to witness her taking steps, although these steps were very different. Now she was walking up as a grown woman, confidently, to receive the diploma she’d had to earn through hard work on her own.
Suddenly I felt fear rising in me and I wanted to go back to the beginning, before her first steps and hold my precious baby. I wanted to smell baby powder on her, hold her close and rock her to sleep. I’ll admit to the tears that fall down my cheeks as I write this. Remembering holding my babies is just something that turns me right back into a big mess of puddly Mommie Goo.
Watching my daughter walk up those podium steps was exciting and melancholy all at the same time. We’ve watched her take all her necessary steps to prepare for life, and now it’s time to let her fly. You can’t imagine how happy and excited she is as she looks to the future, wondering what to do next. Thankfully, the first stop was to come home for the summer before her graduation trip. I’m not so puddly and gooey anymore.
Stephanie has always been a strong person and doesn’t often cry. She obviously got that from her Daddy. I honestly don’t think she cried much during college until the day she packed up her car and had to drive away from UC Davis, as an Alumni.
I imagine after she hugged her roommate Corinne, drove away alone from her beloved Chi Omega home, away from Davis, the college town she’d fallen in love with… then the tears probably fell unabashedly down her face and onto Mr. Bear for many, many miles and hours to follow.
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. Henry David Thoreau