(Written late Sunday evening; photos posted Monday. No sober editing.)
When I was in college, there was the dreaded drunk call. You got drunk, and inevitably dialed the wrong person’s number… Usually a boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, a crush… the wrong person: read “guy.” Today, there is still drunk texting. Seems much more tangible to me, much more damaging. If you drunk dialed “back when,” you could always deny whatever you said, the next day… when you were sober and realized that you really wished you hadn’t called that person. No, I did not say that I still love you! I said I luv you, as a friend. I said I was sorry we weren’t nicer to each other… You could alway go back on whatever you’d said, and nuance it later. Tonight (for me, at least) there’s drunk blogging.
Here it is: my drunk blog. If you think you’re reading sober blogging, just because there are no typos (I think), that’s just because I’m just as neurotic drunk as I am sober. It’s just taking me much longer to type, as I delete mistakes and retype most of this. Truth is, my oldest child, my girl, Principessa, my baby, graduated from college today… and a wall of stuff I didn’t anticipate, and some that I did, has been washing over me ever since I ordered my first martini at dinner… the first. There were a few. All day, I managed to keep my emotions at the “eyes welling up” stage, able to blot away any sign of tears, and avoid falling into the puddles of emotion that were raging through me all weekend.
When I woke up, earlier than I needed to (we are on the East coast, while our bodies are still grounded in the 3 hour earlier west coast… hence at 7:30 AM here, when I woke up, my body screamed: It’s 4-f’ing’-thirty!), I immediately thought of my daughter: waking in her own dorm room. I knew that she would be thinking about the new outfit she picked out for today, and how she would look, how she would get her diploma, and how it must all feel so big. I pictured her waking in her single bed, in her “single” (Sr) room, looking around her, and imagining what this day would hold. As I lay in this semi-lousy Days Inn room, the sound of giant trucks shifting gears on the highway, outside my window… I thought of my girl, lying in her bed, overwhelmed by all that this day means.
<– The day before graduation… The Laurel Ceremony wherein alumnae from as far back as the 1930s, join the current graduates, carrying strands of laurel, connecting the generations. They circle the entire campus, to the grave of Mary Lyons, the founder. At this, the first college for women in the world, they all wear white and walk generation linked to generation.
She has studied for four years and in that time, so much has changed. She’s lived away from home for the first time; she’s made friends I hardly know, but who have been family to her; she fell in love for the first time and then lost that love; she’s discovered a devotion to Judaism, that was strong when she was young but now defines so much of who she is… she has lived outside my orbit for all of this time, and grown into a new person, who I both recognize and who I still work to understand, each time I interact with her. All of this, ran through my head as I woke in a strange hotel room and then got in the shower… as I urged her brothers to hurry, and as I put on a nice dress to honor this special day, as I worried about getting there on time (as the boys bought breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts); as I walked to the Ampitheater at Mount Holyoke College, as I sat for three hours in the blazing sun to see my oldest child, and my only girl, graduate today with honors.
All day, I held it together. My eyes welled up several times as various things ran through my head: Oh how her grandmother (Smart Guy’s mom) would love this, she’d be so excited to share this; her grammy (my mom) would be so happy and they’d both be so proud) but I didn’t really cry… until I sat at a late dinner, and drank a martini. As the alcohol hit my blood stream, I found it harder to hold it together. Some song came on the sound system in the background and that set me off. Music, always my poison, alcohol the igniter. My girl wasn’t with us, because she can’t eat in non-kosher restaurants, and kosher restaurants are hard to come by. We’d helped her pack most of her room, and had gone off to dinner at 9PM, hungry, sun-burned, tired, and without her. As I drank that drink, all of it hit me like a twenty-two year old brick. Twenty-two years ago, when I had that beautiful girl, it never occurred to me really, that one day she would graduate from college and I would feel so much.
When we arrived to our “seats,” cushions, on the grassy ampitheatre, for the 175th Mount Holyoke commencement, smack dab in the the intense sun (no shade for 3+ hrs, people passing out, one taken by ambulance, the rest of us sunburned and fanning ourselves), I searched the crowd for my daughter’s face and could not find it. As the 500 girls marched in, I couldn’t see my own girl’s face, just the blur of all those other young women, facing this huge day. Just like when she was little and performed in the school concert, or the middle school monologues, I searched for her and knew she was searching for us, each of us needing to make that brief eye contact that says: “I’m here honey. I see you.” I felt an anxious sense of frustration, as each of the amazing speakers reached the podium. Astro-physists, Civil rights leaders, Irani writer and famed speakers… all impressed me, but I wanted most, only to have that brief second, when my girl and I would see each other and know that we were there together. I wanted my little girl, searching from the edge of the stage and waving to her mommy and daddy in the audience…
It eluded me throughout. She never saw us there, never saw our faces filled with pride and love, never saw us waving and beseeching her to look our way. But, I saw her eventually… right before she stepped forward and took her diploma. I held my camera, poised and ready and gazed at her through the lens. My heart actually beat faster, just seeing her face framed in my lens. I cheered as they called her name and she took that piece of paper that tells her she’s done what she worked so hard to do. Oh, the moment was so much more than I thought it might be. I wanted to just call out her name, and not worry about manners or protocol. I wanted to run forward and gather her in my arms. But, I stayed where I was and snapped as many pictures as possible, watching her move through the small window of my lens. Just still frames of emotions that surged in every fibre of me. I felt proud of each girl who stepped up, knowing that some other parent was feeling what I felt, but that one girl held my heart. It was all so big.
Afterwards, we met her and hugged. We took the pictures that every parent takes. We watched the other parents and graduates. We moved through the crowd and were part of something bigger for a while. We went for ice-cream at her favorite place… her last time there. We met with her Rabbi’s and his lovely wife at their home… where she’s spent so many Shabbat evenings, sleeping in their home, part of their family even as we wondered what they were like. I studied their faces and felt a swell of love for these strangers who have nurtured my child, in my absence. We went back to her dorm and I folded and packed each item of her clothing: barely pausing to notice the dress that was mine when I was pregnant with her; the sweater I bought her her freshman year; the items I’d never seen, that she’s bought in these past four years away from us… I put it all in large plastic bins, to be stored in her car and driven cross country, solo. We took down her posters, her pictures. Friends stopped by her room to hug and get teary, to say how much they would all miss each other… and I watched these young women and knew that they had been her family, while we were thousands of miles away. I took all of this in, and I tried not to cry. (I wore that dress to my baby shower, when I was expecting this girl)
(<–Packing the dorm) Then, we went to dinner. Again, she wasn’t there because she can’t eat in restaurants that aren’t kosher and there are not a lot of those here… or where we live. And, again, as the drink hit my brain, it all hit me. My girl is a graduate now. She has passed through four years that have transformed her in ways that I don’t know yet. I have changed while she was away. I looked at my boys and could barely imagine doing all of this two more times. During one of the commencement speeches, one of the speakers said to the graduates: “Until you have found something that you would die for, until you know that there is at least one thing that you would lay down your life for, you have not fully lived.” There at the table tonight, were two of the things I would lay down my life for… and the other, was off saying goodbye to her other family. She was walking her campus one last time before she leaves tomorrow. She will sleep in that single bed one last time.
And I drank and began to cry. I excused myself and went outside… the night still warm and sweet smelling, like the New England springs of my youth. I cried and cried. I told those boys that they are the things I would die for, as we sat at the table. I drunk dialed my girl, but she didn’t answer. She eventually called me, back at the hotel and I told her (again) how proud I am of her…and how she is that reason in my life. How much more this day meant than I imagined. I barely remember my own graduation, but her’s was like sparkling moments that seemed freeze framed in their incredible meaning. I shared this with my girl, and we cried together. I drunk dialed my girl, and she laughed that her mom can be as silly as her, on the right day.
If I dind’t edit this, ti would look like this. I wouldn’t edit it or worry about how it s typed. i owuld just type it… but all thw words would be the same. The feelings would be just as big and stong. I would say all the thihgs I just said, but i wouldnt care if it lookedgood, ro sounded jsut right… because today, all the other stuff means so much more than wether I get ithrigt. I would still be plannign to drift off and sleep, after a long, emotional day, that has drained and exhilarated me in ways that can’t be typed here. I am all that i am, separate of my roled as mother… but in the tend, that is so much more than all the rest. Seeing my girl today, was bigger than all the rest… and then some.
And this morning, we packed the rest and closed the door to her dorm. A final goodbye to her home for nearly four years (minus one in Israel). The place where she grew up and into herself. The place we left her, and then came back to get her. I did my crying last night… today, we giggled. I tickled her and she was my little girl for a minute: gasping for breath and laughing. We hugged as we looked out her window one last time. She turned in her keys, taking them off the Mount Holyoke College lanyard that she got as a freshman. We took the last load to her car and wished her a safe drive. I told her to call me each morning and each night. And she drove away… on the road back to us.
** Have you shared a similar life event with your children? Are they still little and this seems very far off? It’s not. Pick them up and cuddle them… now. Share your thoughts. Please click on the title, and hit like at the bottom, if you liked it. Leave a comment.