There was the time, during a spring not so long ago, where he wore a tiny, paper mortarboard in a tiny, Presbyterian pre-school gym, grinning from ear-to-ear. I have pictures.
There was the time, during a spring of a young 21st century, where he carried a poster-sized letter of the alphabet onto a kindergarten stage, joyfully singing, “Oh, This is Graduation Day.”
There was the time, during a spring eight years ago, where he proceeded into church in a grown-up suit with a smirk and a smile for his eighth grade “Completion Ceremony,” carrying a rose for mom.
There was the time, during springs of this decade, where he, like his older brother before him, donned a white dinner jacket and walked across the stage of the Peabody Opera House. Waiting to hand over the diploma was his A.P. U.S. History teacher, who also happened to carry the title, “Dad.”
There was the time, during a spring three years ago, where we sweated in a downtown Milwaukee arena to catch a glimpse of his older brother, Matt, a bearded graduate in a black cap and gown seated among a few thousand classmates celebrating with silly string.
There was the time, just one week ago, when that same young man was bestowed a velvet purple hood and a law degree in an historic Michigan auditorium from a storied university.
And now this ... After years of pomp, one final circumstance. On Sunday, God willing and the weather cooperates, we’ll be sitting on a lawn in central Indiana, watching our son Jack pick up a degree in economics from DePauw University.
Two graduations in 10 days. To say I’m overwhelmed is an understatement. To see your kids confidently transition from one stage of life to the next is a privilege; to know that your role as a parent has lessened with each of those transitions is heart-wrenching.
When it’s all over Sunday, Tom and I will have had the honor of witnessing this ritual 11 times over the years. That’s a lot of musical arrangements, a lot of speeches, a lot of polite clapping and a lot of getting there early to get a good seat. That’s what we’re good at – getting there early. Knowing that your kids are the ones who did all the heavy lifting to get to that point, well that’s a blessing beyond words.
And so we embark on one last commencement. The great thinker and storyteller Joseph Campbell wrote that ritual is “your consciousness being re-minded of the wisdom of your own life.”
I’m fairly certain we’ll hear “Pomp and Circumstance” Sunday. I’ll hum along to that old march one last time, fervent in the confidence he will go forth and create his own music. And then we’ll take pictures.