I've been noticing photos of various graduations on Facebook these past few weeks. Dressed in the cap and gown...teenagers are smiling...and the family standing beside them are either incredulous that time has flown by so quickly, or just immensely grateful that they walked. The time is marked by gifts, words of congratulations and occasionally a few tears. In about a month or so, the graduate will be threatened that he or she will not leave that house until every thank you note is written and the packing is done. That a curfew of "whenever" is a bit premature. And that the town she grew up in is not the most boring place on earth, and that there are a lot less intelligent people on this earth than his parents.
What she doesn't know is that one day she will long for life as she knows it right now. What he seems to not understand is that with additional freedom comes additional responsibility.
A few weeks back, our family watched another of the next generation take his vows to a beautiful young lady who changed her last name to the one I also took nearly twenty five years ago. We watched the same ritual...gifts, words of congratulations and happy tears. They were gracious and precious as they opened gifts chosen to celebrate this metamorphosis from two to one. He got his ridiculously overpriced...but highly desired showerhead. She received items that will make their house a home.
What they don't know right now is how fast it will go...how life accelerates beyond comprehension. How days melt into years...how children come...stay such a short time...and then leave the nest. How the most important thing is making each other a priority because the pull to remain one - from the two you promised to be - never fully goes away.
Passages...we all have been through them. We've gotten from Point A to Point B...and just kept moving. When time used to all but stand still as we wished it away to be eleven...so we could no longer count our age on our fingers...to thirteen...so we'd be a teenager. We'd wish to be sixteen so that we could put five dollars worth of gas in the car and try to find someone interesting to talk to. We wanted to be eighteen so we could graduate and find somewhere far more interesting to live than the town we grew up in...or to at least have that option. We wanted to be 21, homeowners, parents, and well thought of in our careers. We yearned for seniority, peace, and enough money to chase our dreams.
And then we get there, pass in a blur, and start applying the brakes. Stomping the brakes, actually.
There are a lot of passages that are not been so happy. Funerals. People that have moved away. The change of life. Mammograms. Colonoscopies.
What I've come to realize is that life comes at us pretty hard. It has its moments of celebration...its passages that make us stop and pay attention. Much like being down for an illness or after surgery...we are forced to evaluate what we can and cannot do. Where we've been and where we are going.
I'd like to celebrate everything...but sometimes lack the enthusiasm and most assuredly...the money. I'd like to celebrate that I have a home that I love, a man that I love, beautiful children, and parents that are living. I have relatives all over the country...and in France, a job, and have seen most of the dreams I had for myself come true. I have good friends, enough to eat, and my good choices have outweighed my bad. Well, that might actually be a draw...but it seems okay just the same.
Passages remind us that this sphere on which we are walking is a temporary one. We watch the children that we carried as infants grab a diploma or walk an aisle. We try not to recoil when we are told that we don't understand...and we work desperately to figure it out. We try to deal with the changes in our bodies and not alienate everyone in the process. Restaurants we love close...due to lack of interest. The economy hands us a new career against our will. Our homes require maintenance and updating because carpet is just not meant to last thirty years...and appliances have a nasty habit of breaking at the most highly inopportune moment.
I suppose that we all long for the days when life was simpler, and wish somehow that we could return to those days that we wished away when we were young and stupid. To sit in your grandmother's kitchen again...or to hold your babies and read "Goodnight, Moon" and smell their sweetness. To recapture the excitement of the dating years or to just recapture any excitement into your life whatsoever. But we pass through...and we keep marching forward.
Just don't forget to look around at the ordinary days between the passages of life. Smell the flowers. Take the day to think. Hug the ones you love. Make time for things you enjoy. And hang on for the ride.