Graduation season is once again here.
It still sneaks up on me and I still ponder where the time has gone. Graduation day for my two little ones is far off in the distance. I am however, very familiar with how quickly the time will pass and that I too will cling to a tissue as I watch them ‘progress.’
Prior to the birth of my children, I would use this space to wish all graduates well. Often I would reflect on my own ‘Graduation Journeys’, not to mention valuable life lessons which seem to find us as we try and figure it all out. Since then, I have been both fortunate and proud to know many of the young people who grace the stages of our local high schools as they set out to make their mark on the world.
This year the Class of 2013 holds a special place in my heart. More specifically the Escalon High School Class of 2013 holds a special place in the heart of my family.
Before expanding I will first apologize for monopolizing this space to speak specifically of my family and our first born grandchild. What I do however recognize is that while my words are specific to my own life and family, many of us share the same feelings and emotion. That is my hope; that through my words there is a connection for other families of graduates. It is, after all, a special and joyful time for so many.
So, on Friday, May 31 my niece Niki Whitcomb will place her mortarboard on her head, move the tassel and become a high school graduate. It’s still hard to believe that this little girl who once collected ponies and playthings will be packing at the end of summer and heading for college.
She was the pioneer of sorts. The first baby, that taught us all what it meant to love unconditionally. To rally as a family. To hope and dream for our little ones, and to do all we could to make their lives better.
Our ‘family’ is the all American mix up of divorce, remarriage and step-siblings. The majority of us live within 20 miles of one another and faithfully see one another for holidays and sporting events. We are no different than the all American nuclear family, just a little harder to map out on a family tree.
Niki held the title of only grandchild for five years until her brother Hunter was born. She is now the eldest of eight grandchildren from my step father’s side of the tree. She was our first dance recital, our first soccer player, first day of school, our first guitarist, first driver and now graduate.
She has been the litmus test for all topics and tests, which each of us will now experience with our own children.
Being the ‘first’ brings with it the smothering of much love, the spoilage of many holidays and the critical eye of the elders whom ‘want the best for you.’ Through it all she has persevered with grace, strength and a loving heart. She has stumbled, scraped a knee and learned the lessons - just as we all have and continue to do.
Our family could not be more proud of its ‘first.’ The pride of our family for this graduate stems and jolts in many directions. Mine are pretty simple.
My fondest memories of Niki span right alongside those of my own duo. She was once a faithful sidekick to me, as I journeyed my way through this unfamiliar valley. She was once a bright smiling face sliding down a staircase, a hip twist and a bobbing head to Shania Twain, a painted picture for my office here at the Leader and a big bear hug after days apart. She blossomed into a role model and loving young woman to her younger cousins. She now smiles at their silliness as we once did hers. Simply put she grew and matured beyond what any of us could have possibly imagined.
Now, her journey continues. The next chapter is just waiting for her and gratefully we each are able to tag along for a whole new set of firsts.
So what does all this mean, really? In retrospect, I guess it’s pretty simple. We never truly know how things will turn out for our children. We do our best to support, guide, love and teach them. A graduation ceremony does not rid us of that role; if anything it ups our game. The big wide world can be both a scary and exciting place. We are just as needed (or more so) than when they learned their way around a playground. They’re always our kids, regardless of the number of candles on the birthday cake.
But this … graduation ... is a time we freeze in our memories. It’s a time of renewed hope, personal reinvention and dreams of what’s to come. That’s what makes it special. Simply stated - it’s exciting.
Well done, Niki Taylor Whitcomb. You are loved, you are admired and most importantly you are supported by the village which we choose to call ‘family.’ Thank you for letting us all tag along.
Teresa Hammond is circulation manager for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.