closing ceremonies of Grace’s Beginner year, 2008
closing ceremonies of Whit’s Beginner year, 2010
I’m not sure if it’s because I live in a college town, or if it’s a relic of my many years in educational institutions myself, but there’s something essential in my soul that still beats on academic time. I feel the end of something as profoundly at the end of the school year as I do at New Year’s. This time of year, when people swarm my neighborhood in academic robes and caps and when I keep reading graduation speeches, I feel the grip of some inchoate sorrow that feels as incongruous as the world is bursting into riotous bloom around me as it is undeniable, unavoidable.
The truth is, right now, I feel sad. Today is the end of something. As I wrote last year, “no matter how many times I’m caught from the freefall of farewell by a new beginning, I still feel the loss.” Today our children celebrate their closing ceremonies, Grace and Whit moving from fifth and third grade respectively. There’s excitement – the summer lies ahead, with beaches and camps and later bedtimes and lots and lots of joy – but there’s an undeniable sorrow, too. At least for me. Something that will never be again is over. I will never again sit in my car at the corner and watch my third and fifth grader walk through the school gates, big backpacks bobbing on their backs. All year long, watching them go gives me a lump in my throat and a swell in my chest, but that feeling escalates as we near the end of the year.
I drive through Harvard Square and notice that they’ve begun erecting the tents for graduation, and this always reminds me of the sharp ache I used to feel when they started putting up fences and tents for reunions at Princeton. The fences marked off each major reunion’s location, but they also delineated the end of another year. Still, to this day, I remember the tears that used to spring to my eyes. And the same tears came, unbidden, as I watched Harvard transforming itself to celebrate another commencement. Today we do the same at Grace and Whit’s school.
I feel out of step with the celebration in the air today and this time of year, the overwhelming, enthusiastic rush towards summer I sense all around me. Hold back! Wait! I say silently, wanting another day to dwell in this, here, now. I’m always keenly aware of life’s accumulating farewells, but I think this time of year is when I feel them most acutely. Kunitz’s feast of losses seep into my waking and my sleeping. Today, I’ll blink back tears as I watch my 3rd and 5th grade days come to an end, as I marvel at this glittering life, turning so quickly I can barely keep up.
And so we go on, round and round and round in the circle game. Captive on a carousel of time. Another end and beginning twined together. Life itself is a series of commencements, isn’t it? Every day, we commence.
11 thoughts on “Commencement”
Oh yes. Yesterday we also finished our school year and my son said at bedtime that he had two words in his head the whole day: done and sad. Pretty succinct way of putting all the feelings I was having too.
I will walk my youngest to school for the last time tomorrow, as she is finishing elementary and will take a bus to middle school. So, I get this.
Oh, oh, oh. Despite my general cheerfulness in the face of “these festival rites,” I do know what you speak of. I was the mom who always had to beg Kleenex off some other mom at my kids’ year-end events, through all the beginnings and endings you’re facing now. And let’s see how I do with the commencement down the street next year, when Eric will be graduating…it has all flown by, that is the truth. But somehow, I love these things that bring me to tears, whether the tears are for Memorial Day parades, or for the sound children’s voices raised in song, or for the passage of this phase of my parenting life. Circles indeed.
I’m sorry you are feeling this now. It’s HARD. And yet you are so wise to simply allow yourself to have the experience you are having.
I was thinking of you yesterday because we are on reverse schedules. I know that end of the school year is hard for you. I have that same feeling at the end of summer and September is always a doozy for me.
Thinking of you and your beautiful children as they spring into summer.
I totally get what you’re saying, as I feel the same way. My first-grader finished school yesterday. I think for me the sadness comes from all the possibilities and promise that the beginning of an academic year holds (whether in the past for me and now for my son) and now it’s over, with many of those promises unmet. There’s no longer the possibility; it’s just …. done. Until next fall, at least, when the cycle will start anew.
I am in complete solidarity with you. I have my girl graduating high school, and my son entering high school next year. Commencement, closure…it’s all so hard and yet thrilling at the same time. Ride it out…it’s only the beginning.
You know, you will never be one of the ones that looks back and wonders “where did it all go?” or “why didn’t I soak it all in?” because you are soaking in every last drop of it. Mine aren’t in school yet, so I don’t feel this as acutely. But I am already sad that spring—the spring we counted down for all January and FEbruary—is almost over. Summer is great in its way, but oh spring.
So interesting to read this today. Our girls don’t get out until June 24th so we are right in the midst of all the end of year craziness. This is a good reminder to slow down and enjoy it all- before it ends.
Bracing myself for our first “graduation”–of my oldest, from preschool…the only school we’ve known, followed swiftly by a move out of town…Today is the end of something indeed. Thank you for this. xoxo
I so get you on this, Lindsey. On the last day of school, I watched my boys walk to school together for the last time EVER IN THEIR LIVES. I bawled my eyes out all the way back home. My daughter graduated eighth grade and my son fifth; this was a tough May for me.
I, too, didn’t feel the “happy” for their new beginnings. All I could think about was all that time…*poof* gone.
The pictures of the kids are adorable, by the way. I love the plump cheeks and the bright eyes of that age.
Enjoy your summer! xo
Oh, it brings tears to my eyes to just read that. I’ve written before about how it’s a blessing, at least for me, that so often I don’t know when something’s a last when it’s happening (last time a child falls asleep next to me in bed, last time I carry a sleeping child out of the car, etc, etc, etc) because I couldn’t bear it if I did. The walking to school – that guts me. xo
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